About the Center

Space science is the province of multiple disciplines. Understanding the formation and evolution of the solar system, the galaxy, or the universe is equally the task of the cosmochemist who measures isotopic effects in meteorites, the astronomer who observes planetary atmospheres or interstellar dust, and the astrophysicist who studies high energy emissions and gravitational effects of neutron star mergers.

Faculty, researchers, and students of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences belong to one of the traditional science departments, yet overlap in their research. Members of the Center enjoy the diversity of research being conducted and consider the eclectic nature of the Center to be one of the most important aspects of the space sciences program at Washington University.

The McDonnell Center plays a key role at Washington University through endowed professorships, supporting acquisition of sophisticated instrumentation, hiring new faculty, supporting postdoctoral and graduate student fellowships, administering visiting scientist programs, seeding innovative research, and fostering wide-reaching collaborations.  

As we look to the future, space science is central to humanity’s aspiration for knowledge as we seek to explore and comprehend our surroundings and our beginnings.     

Faculty Focus

Jim Mertens recently joined the Department of Physics.

Standard cosmological models describe the expansion of our Universe and the evolution of its contents with remarkable accuracy - yet, a number of mysteries remain.  Observations of the Universe are becoming increasingly sophisticated with vast catalogues of galaxies, measurements of faint microwave radiation from the early Universe, and recently even detecting gravitational waves emitted by colliding black holes.  Professor Mertens' research focuses on meaningfully interpreting these observations to make progress towards understanding our Universe and making predictions of measurable phenomena with an ever-increasing level of accuracy and precision. 


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Gravitational waves probe exotic matter inside neutron stars

Gravitational waves probe exotic matter inside neutron stars

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