No one thinks longer, or bigger, than astrophysicists.
"This is the golden age of cosmology," says Priya Natarajan, one of the world's leading astrophysicists, because data keeps pouring in to vet even the most radical theories. And the dominant mysteries are profound. She observes that "The vast majority of stuff in the universe-both dark matter and dark energy, which dominate the content and fate of the universe-is unknown."
The universe's greatest exotica are the focus of her research-dark matter, dark energy, and black holes. She is an expert, for example, in the complex behavior and gravitational lensing of galaxy clusters, where arrays of 1,000 galaxies are 95% dark matter. Her theory of the "direct" formation of supermassive black holes may explain the profound mystery of quasars.
Priyamvada Natarajan is a professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University and at the Dark Cosmology Center, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She is an active proponent for the public understanding and study of science.
Priyamvada Natarajan is Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She is a theoretical astrophysicist interested in cosmology, gravitational lensing and black hole physics. Her research involves mapping the detailed distribution of dark matter in the universe exploiting the bending of light en-route to us from distant galaxies. In particular, she has focused on making dark matter maps of clusters of galaxies, the largest known repositories of dark matter. Gravitational lensing by clusters can also be utilized to constrain dark energy models and she has been developing the methodology and techniques to do so. Her work has demonstrated that cluster strong lensing offers a unique and potentially powerful laboratory to test evolving dark energy models.
Priya is also actively engaged in deriving and understanding the mass assembly history of black holes over cosmic time. She is exploring a new channel for the formation of the first black holes and its observational consequences at high and low redshift. This channel produces massive seeds derived from the direct collapse of pre-galactic gas disks at the earliest epochs. This is in contrast to the conventional picture wherein light seeds are produced from the end state of the first stars. Current measurements of the masses of black holes hosted in nearby faint galaxies supports the existence of a massive seeding model. In earlier work, she argued for the existence of an upper limit to black hole masses in the universe by showing that black holes eventually stunt their own growth. This self-regulation implies the presence of ultra-massive black holes with capped masses in the centers of nearby galaxies that have since been observationally detected.