The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Astrophysics and Space Exploration (CIRAS) is a research initiative led by academics from Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH). CIRAS promotes research through connections between astrophysics, computer sciences, physics, space sciences, engineering, mathematics, biology and education. CIRAS involves researchers from the physics, informatics, math and biology departments.

This center is guided by the principles of openness and inclusiveness, putting diversity and accessibility at the forefront.

Astrophysics of the formation of planets

The statistics are mind-blowing, every star in our Galaxy hosts on average at least one planet. Yet we still lack crucial information to tell the story of how these planets are born. The question of planetary origins requires the detection of birthing planets for information on where, when and how planets.

Space physics and space exploration

As any other star, our Sun is not only a source of light but also the source of a stellar (solar) wind. Planetary magnetic fields shield planets like Earth from such plasma flows, giving rise to the planetary magnetospheres. Our group studies turbulence in space plasmas and its role in the solar wind-magnetosphere interactions and the transport of plasma and energy between different regions of the magnetosphere.

Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, OPAL Program, J. DePasquale (STScI), L. Lamy (Obs. Paris).

Astroinformatics

Chile benefits from an advantageous position to exploit astronomical sciences, and the connection with informatics represents a natural engine for development driven by the data-centric and computationally expensive challenges posed by astrophysics. Modern astrophysics has reached a point where theory and observations are directly connected thanks to astroinformatics and high performance computing (HPC). One of the main scientific activities that our Center plans to execute is to train advanced young researchers and engineers to apply HPC techniques to astrophysics research.

Astrobiology

The hostile conditions of our neighboring planets direct the search of life into the microbial world. The study of life in extreme environments on Earth gives insights on the physicochemical conditions where life could exist. The discovery of microbial communities in high and low temperature ecosystems such as those present in deep sea hydrothermal vents or the Dry Valleys and frozen lakes of Antarctica respectively, have extended our definition of a habitability zone where to find extraterrestrial life.

Theoretical astrophysics

The investigation of nature and the evolution of the dark sector of the universe is one of the most active and relevant topics in cosmology today. In the last decade we have conducted research on dark energy models in the universe in the context of general relativity, brane models, modified gravity, and unimodular gravity.

Astronomy education research

Astronomy education research (AER) is the field that studies the currently used teaching methods in astronomy while seeking to improve their learning outcomes. Astronomy education encourages young people to pursue an academic career and thus awaken the vocation of future generations of scientists in the area. Here we link AER and outreach by sharing knowledge and educational tools with the general public for use in formal and non-formal contexts, thus promoting astronomy and a greater social appreciation of the field.

Astrostatistics

We are living in the Big Data era. Astronomy has not been outside of the latest technological advances. In this era, the astronomical surveys have evolved from taking observations of small and focused areas of the sky (for example, OGLE and HIPPARCOS) to widefield surveys (for example VVV). The upcoming challenge in astronomy is the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). Considering the large amount of data that will be available, the statistical tools can be useful to implement processes that allow us to analyze the data efficiently.

Activities

People

  • Sebastián Pérez (interim director), Physics department
  • Fernando Rannou, Informatics engineering department
  • Marina Stepanova, Physics department
  • Jenny Blamey, Chemistry and Biology faculty
  • Carla Hernández, Physics department
  • Yaroslav Ispolatov, Physics department
  • Pablo Román, Informatics Engineering department
  • Ernesto Gramsch, Physics department
  • Cristóbal Espinoza, Physics department
  • Felipe Elorrieta, Math department
  • Norman Cruz, Physics department
  • Miguel Pino, Physics department