Letter From the Director

As we come to a close of a challenging but scientifically exciting academic year, I’m delighted to share in this newsletter some of the work and discoveries made by DiRAC researchers over the past months.

We start with a profile of Dr. Stephen Portillo, a DiRAC Postdoctoral Fellow whose work at the intersection of statistics, machine learning, and astronomy is making it possible for us to precisely measure even the densest areas of our Galaxy. Then read about how Dr. Kyle Boone, a DiRAC and NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, uses “supernova twins” for precision cosmology — precise measurements of distances in the universe. Find out how Joachim Moeyens, one of our graduate students, is advancing the state-of-the-art in discovery of dwarf planets, comets, and asteroids in the Solar System with novel object discovery algorithms. And finally, stay for an interview with DiRAC’s associate director Prof. Jim Davenport about the searches for intelligent life in the universe, and and tale of a rare eclipsing binary system, RR Hydrae.

These are just some of the many accomplishments our researchers made in a year marked by the stresses of the pandemic and remote work. I am especially proud by how we’ve pulled through this difficult times by supporting and caring each other, and through it all managed to push forward the boundaries of science. As we move into the summer and plan for return to campus in the fall, I can’t help but be excited by the prospect of our entire DiRAC community being in person, together, again!

Mario Jurić

Professor, Department of Astronomy
Director, DiRAC Institute