21 August 2012
Martin Pessah receives ERC grant to research accretion disks around stars and black holes
Theoretical astrophysicist, Martin Pessah, has been awarded 13.3 million kroner from the European Research Council, ERC, to research into the fundamental processes in the formation and evolution of planets, stars and black holes.
A star is formed by a large, rotating cloud of gas and dust that condenses and collapses into a ball of glowing gas – a star. The remains of the dust and gas cloud rotate in a disk around the newly formed star and in this disk matter begins to accumulate and form planets and asteroids. Such accretion disks are also found around dead stars that have become dense objects such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. Martin Pessah’s research project is to understand the physical processes that are taking place in these rotating disks.
“Understanding how these accretion disks work has been a huge problem in astrophysics for more than four decades. What makes the problem extremely challenging is that there are many physical processes that can couple very different scales of time and size characterizing the structure of these disks. This makes it almost impossible to attack the problem purely theoretically or solely with numerical modeling. We will therefore combine these two approaches by building advanced numerical and theoretical models,” explains Martin Pessah who believes that with the unique, interdisciplinary research environment that exists at the Niels Bohr Institute, they have a realistic chance of opening a new window into some of the most fundamental problems in modern astrophysics.
Martin Pessah began his international career in Argentina, where he received his education in astronomy at the University of La Plata. He received his PhD in theoretical astrophysics at the University of Arizona in 2007 and then worked at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In 2010 he was hired as an Assistant Professor at the Niels Bohr International Academy at the Niels Bohr Institute, where he is now building up his own research group that will work on the theoretical and numerical aspects of astrophysical fluid dynamics and magnetohydrodynamics (description of magnetized gasses).
“The ERC grant of 13.3 million kroner and a recent grant of 4.5 million kroner from the Villum Foundation Young Investigator Programme has put me in a unique position where I can attract the best researchers to Denmark,” explains Martin Pessah. He will be able to hire 2-3 new postdocs and a PhD student, purchase powerful computers and data analysis servers as well as organise workshops. “It is a very exciting time,” says an enthusiastic Martin Pessah.