MSU News – MSU gravitational physicist receives NASA award to explore extreme gravity and the universe

July 24, 2017 — Denise Hoepfner, MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – A Montana State University gravitational physicist has received funding for a research project that aims to answer fundamental questions about the universe.

NASA awarded $750,000 to Nicolas Yunes for his project “Exploring Extreme Gravity: Neutron Stars, Black Holes and Gravitational Waves.” Yunes is a founding member of the MSU eXtreme Gravity Institute, known as XGI, and an associate professor in the Department of Physics in MSU’s College of Letters and Science. The award, which covers a three-year period, came from NASA’s Established Program to Simulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR.

Yunes’ project is one of 22 selected to receive EPSCoR grants for research and technology development in areas critical to NASA’s mission and one of 13 to receive the top award of $750,000, according to the agency.

“This is very exciting,” Yunes said. “This grant will allow us to explore fundamental questions about gravity and our universe.”

Yunes said the award will also allow him to grow his research group within the eXtreme Gravity Institute.

“The institute has really become a hub for this kind of education and research in the Mountain West,” Yunes said. “As a result, we’re attracting many great students, researchers and faculty to study here in Montana, and this NASA funding is indispensable to our growth and mission.”

The project will focus on improving and developing tools to extract as much astrophysics information as possible from X-ray data obtained with NASA’S Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, known as NICER, a payload installed in June aboard the International Space Station that will provide high-precision measurements of neutron stars. Neutron stars are objects that contain ultra-dense matter at the threshold of collapse into black holes, according to NASA.

Researchers in Yunes’ group will work to create a framework to test Einstein’s Theory of General…

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