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Department of Physics and Astronomy News

Physics and astronomy are two of the most basic and fundamental sciences. Physics is the study of matter, energy, motion, and force. Its concepts help us understand how the universe behaves. Astronomy studies the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere, including celestial objects and the formation and development of the universe.

Current Physics and Astronomy News

UNLV professor Matthew Lachniet works in his lab on campus.
People | December 27, 2019

A collection of stories highlighting UNLV faculty and students who made the news in 2019.

People preparing to cut ribbon on new Fertitta Complex
Campus News | November 1, 2019

A collection of local, national, and international news stories highlighting the people and programs of UNLV.

a close-up of a group of circles
Arts and Culture | September 30, 2019

Researchers from the College of Sciences showcase the artistic side of science by featuring their most captivating research images.

Physicist standing over table with green laser beams
Research | September 17, 2019

Physicist Ashkan Salamat one of just 46 university professors nationwide – and the first from UNLV – selected for competitive award, which is now in its 10th year.

A man rests his palm on his face in front of a whiteboard with equations
Research | August 15, 2019

Physics professor Michael Pravica's work on useful hard X-ray photochemistry could reveal novel materials — and possibly an explanation for the origin of life on Earth.

artist conception of cosmic event
Research | April 16, 2019

Two dense, city-sized stars collided in a galaxy far, far away; the resulting X-rays give UNLV’s Bing Zhang and international team of astronomers a new way to spot when it happens and a rare glimpse into how neutron stars form.

Physics and Astronomy In The News

Quartz
January 17, 2020

No one enjoys boarding an airplane. It’s slow, it’s inefficient, and often undignified. And that’s without even getting into the ethical quandary of so-called gate lice, the anxious passengers who cluster at the gate before their group is called. But at least one part of the process doesn’t need to be disrupted. When it comes to shunting slow-moving passengers to the front of the queue, such as those requiring assistance or with small children, the airlines have it exactly right.

Ars Technica
January 15, 2020

Commercial airlines often prioritize boarding for passengers traveling with small children, or for those who need extra assistance—in other words, those likely to be slower to stow their bags and take their seats—before starting to board the faster passengers. It's counter-intuitive, but it turns out that letting slower passengers board first actually results in a more efficient process and less time before takeoff, according to a new paper in Physical Review E.

Astronomy
December 13, 2019

Molecules containing noble gases shouldn’t exist. By definition, these chemical elements — helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon — are the party poopers of the periodic table, huddling in the rightmost column and refusing to make molecules. Indeed, no one has ever seen any naturally occurring noble gas molecules on Earth. Earlier this decade, though, astronomers accidentally discovered one of these aloof elements in molecules in space.

Discover
December 12, 2019

Molecules containing noble gases shouldn’t exist. By definition, these chemical elements — helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon — are the party poopers of the periodic table, huddling in the rightmost column and refusing to make molecules. Indeed, no one has ever seen any naturally occurring noble gas molecules on Earth. Earlier this decade, though, astronomers accidentally discovered one of these aloof elements in molecules in space.

MSN
December 4, 2019

Improving the airplane boarding experience has become something of a holy grail over the years, especially after a 1998 Boeing study suggested that airlines could increase profits by decreasing airplane turnaround time. Since then, airlines have invested significant time and money into seeing if they can speed up one of the most frustrating parts of air travel—and that’s saying a lot, considering the other frustrating elements of flying.

Tampa Bay Times
November 25, 2019

There is no question that carbon dioxide levels are rising to unprecedented levels, at least compared to the prior 800,000 years.

Physics and Astronomy Experts

An expert in astronomy, dark matter, and general physics.
A physics professor, whose specialties include high pressure science, explosives, and high radiation flux.

Recent Physics and Astronomy Accomplishments

December 10, 2019
Jason Steffen (Physics and Astronomy) was recognized as a 2019 "Highly Cited Researcher" by the Web of Science.  This places him, by citations, in the top one percent of his field over the decade 2008 through 2018.  Most of these citations come from his work in exoplanets, especially in conjunction with NASA's Kepler mission.  Steffen is an...
November 18, 2019
Chao-Chin Yang, Zhaohuan Zhu, Stephen Lepp, and Xiao Hu (all Physics and Astronomy) just were awarded a $474,315 research grant by NASA through the Astrophysics Theory Program. They will conduct state-of-the-art computer simulations to model a circumstellar disk around a young star and study the dust-gas dynamics in the disk. The investigation...
November 8, 2019
Chao-Chin Yang, Zhaohuan Zhu and Stephen Lepp (all Physics and Astronomy) just were awarded a $456,315 research grant by NASA through the Emerging Worlds Program. They will investigate one of the most difficult stages in the course of planet formation, for example, how kilometer-scale planetesimals can be built from pebble-sized materials around a...
October 30, 2019
Jason Steffen (Physics and Astronomy) converted data from NASA's Kepler mission, which detected thousands of planets orbiting distant stars, into music.  The sounds that are generated for each system can give insight into the formation of that system.  His YouTube video, and the accompanying story, was picked up by Earth and Space Science News and...
September 23, 2019
Qiang Zhu (Physics and Astronomy) is the principal investigator for a two-year grant of $160,895 recently awarded to UNLV by the National Science Foundation. He will collaborate with researchers at other institutions, including Arizona State University, New York University, University of Arkansas, Cornell University, and University of Puerto Rico...
September 5, 2019
Ashkan Salamat (Physics and Astronomy) was one of just 46 university professors nationwide – and the first from UNLV – to earn an Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) office of science. Each year, the DOE selects rising researchers from the nation’s national labs and universities for the competitive award. The program, now...