High-energy astrophysics studies the Universe at the extreme. Black holes, neutron stars, exploding supernovae, and relativistically moving jets continually challenge our understanding of the behavior of matter at extreme densities and temperatures, high velocities, enormous magnetic fields, and strong gravity. Understanding these extreme environments is key to interpreting the bizarre energetic phenomena that occur in Active Galactic Nuclei, pulsars, supernovae, and gamma-ray bursts. The field of high-energy astrophysics is currently experiencing an explosion in data quality and in the level of sophistication of the modeling. For the next several years, we expect to experience a unique confluence of simultaneous observations from the ground and space-based telescopes that span the whole electromagnetic spectrum: JVLA, ALMA (radio and sub-millimeter), Hubble/JWST (optical/infrared), Chandra, SWIFT, NuStar (X-rays), INTEGRAL and Fermi (gamma-rays), and HESS/MAGIC (multi-TeV gamma-rays). These facilities will be combined with the qualitatively new windows provided by particle astronomy via cosmic rays (Auger) and neutrinos (IceCube), and with gravitational wave astronomy with Advanced LIGO. High-energy astrophysics sources provide prime targets for these observatories and pose unique puzzles for theory.
Researchers at Princeton are involved in all aspects of high-energy astrophysics including theoretical investigations, computer simulations and data analysis and modeling. Adam Burrows is engaged in theory and simulations of supernova explosions, including their gravitational and neutrino signals (see Stellar Astrophysics). Jeremy Goodman performs theoretical investigations of accretion disks in AGN, magnetic reconnection, and the physics of GRBs. Russell Kulsrud studies the theory of astrophysical and laboratory reconnection, and the propagation of cosmic rays. Matthew Kunz uses analytical and numerical techniques to investigate magnetic fields and multi-scale plasma dynamics in black-hole accretion flows and the intracluster medium. Jeremiah Ostriker explores the theories of nonthermal signatures of quasar feedback, shock acceleration, neutron stars, and pulsars. Anatoly Spitkovsky does forefront numerical and theoretical studies of astrophysical particle acceleration and of the physics of collisionless shocks, pulsar magnetospheres, and high-energy emission from pulsars, accreting neutron stars, and GRBs. Finally, James Stone develops state-of-the-art numerical tools with which he studies accretion disks, radiation hydrodynamics, and relativistic MHD (see Computational Astrophysics).
Members of the department regularly apply for and receive time on major space telescopes (e.g. Hubble/Chandra/SWIFT) and the Department is a member of the LSST consortium, which will is poised to revolutionize ground-based time-domain astronomy.