Our Department

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Mary Ross Calvert, a Yerkes Observatory computer, operating the Kenwood telescope built by George Ellery Hale in his backyard on Drexel

Since its founding by George Ellery Hale in 1892, the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics has been one of the preeminent astronomy departments in the country. Throughout our history we have been known for our entrepreneurial spirit, close ties with physics, and a faculty distinguished by achievements in science and excellence in teaching. One testimony to that history of achievement is the number of NASA missions and observatories that are named after Chicago scientists: the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-ray Observatory, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Kuiper Airborne Observatory, and the Parker Solar Probe. 

Our department was the first in the world to use astrophysics in its name, reflecting a commitment to interdisciplinary research and innovative approaches combining both physics and astronomy that continues to this day. Our faculty, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students share affiliations with the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP), Enrico Fermi Institute, and Argonne and Fermilab National Laboratories. Our scientific collaborations span the globe, with significant partnerships undertaking ambitious projects at the South Pole, in Argentina, Chile and in space. As a founding partner in the Giant Magellan Telescope, we anticipate the transformative impact of this instrument to propel key discoveries for decades to come.

The astrophysics community at Chicago reacts to the announcement of the first detection of gravitational waves by LIGO. Chicago is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

We are a community guided by a sense of our history - and in the Chicago tradition - driven by the pursuit of big questions, from the origin of planetary systems and existence of life in the Universe to understanding the physics of collisions of black holes and neutron stars. We shape new fields of inquiry by bringing together laboratory astrophysics, state-of-the-art computing, and multi-messenger observations to study the most extreme and mysterious environments in the Universe. These bold investigations are preparing students in our academic programs, and early career scientists on postdoctoral fellowships, to make the breakthrough discoveries and technical innovations of their generation.