Research focus

The stellar merger V838Mon. Creit: NASA, ESA and H.E. Bond (STScI) -

Astrophysical transients

Within time-domain astronomy, the field of astrophysical transients studies some of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. Some examples are stellar explosions such as supernovae and novae, stellar mergers, giant outbursts from massive stars and flares from stars disrupted by supermassive black holes (tidal disruption events).

The group uses the time-domain data provided by the BlackGEM and the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) surveys to detect and study astrophysical transients called Luminous Red Novae (LRNe). These energetic outbursts are associated with the partial ejection of mass from a stellar merger, which helps us to understand how stars evolve when they have a close companion.

A binary system transferring mass.

Binary stellar evolution

A binary star is a system of two gravitationally bound stars that orbit a common center of mass called a barycenter. 

Close binary systems are especially exciting, as they can exchange mass and evolve in totally different ways as single stars. Binary interaction products form high-energy phenomena such as stellar mergers, X-ray binaries, progenitors of stripped core-collapse, and type Ia supernovae, and central stars of planetary nebulae.

The group uses observations of astrophysical transients to better understand how binary stars exchange mass and evolve.

An artist’s impression of the PhotSat satellite.

Credit: N. Blagorodnova

Instrumentation for astronomy

Instrumentation for astronomical observations involves designing, constructing, commissioning, and completing the scientific validation of a new telescope, instrument, or satellite (hardware and software). The group is actively involved with the BlackGEM survey (Radboud University), UV/optical photometric CubeSat mission PhotSat (IEEC), and future instrumentation projects for the Montsec Observatory.