Saurabh W. Jha

photo credit: Miguel Acevedo, RutgersAssociate Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
136 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854

office: Serin 315, Busch campus
tel: (848) 445-8962
fax: (732) 445-4343
email: saurabh@physics.rutgers.edu

 

I joined the Rutgers astrophysics group in September 2007. Previously, I was a Panofsky Fellow at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a Miller Fellow in the University of California, Berkeley Department of Astronomy, and a graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

curriculum vitae (pdf)
list of publications (pdf) (ADS) (ADS: articles only) (ADS: refereed only)

Research interests and collaborations

Supernovae

My main research focus is the observational study of Type Ia supernovae (SN Ia). I am interested in understanding the properties of these exploding white dwarf stars: their progenitor systems, how they explode, and using this knowledge to turn them into tools with which to survey the Universe.

This work is done in collaboration with a variety of groups:

The High-z Supernova Search Team first published strong evidence from observations of distant SN Ia that we live in an accelerating Universe. Along with the results of the Supernova Cosmology Project, this work was called the Breakthrough of the Year by Science in 1998, and was awarded the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize, the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The ESSENCE project followed up this earlier work, in an attempt to characterize the dark energy that is driving the accelerating expansion of the Universe, by measuring its equation of state to 10% accuracy.

The SDSS-II Supernova Survey filled a gap in previous work, by finding and analyzing hundreds of SN Ia in the redshift range between z=0.1 and z=0.3.

As part of the CANDELS and CLASH Hubble Multi-Cycle Treasury Programs on the Hubble Space Telescope, and now the Frontier Fields program, we are searching for SN Ia beyond redshifts z > 1.5 using the WFC3/IR instrument.

CLULESS (the CLUster and LEnsed Supernova Survey) is a project to find SN Ia in and behind galaxy clusters with the Magellan Telescopes in Chile. We have also found and analyzed three lensed supernovae behind CLASH galaxy clusters in a project led by former graduate student Brandon Patel.

In the future, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will find thousands of SN Ia. This huge number of objects means we (the LSST SN science collaboration, in particular) will need new methods to make best use of the data. I am a member of the LSST Supernova Science Collaboration currently the co-convener of the Supernova Working Group in the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration.

While distant SN Ia have driven our understanding of the history of the expansion of the Universe, nearby SN Ia are the crucial underpinning to this enterprise. Not only do they anchor the Hubble diagram for cosmology, they provide the samples which show the utility of SN Ia as distance indicators. They are also the ones which we can study the best, from observations at many wavelengths to data at late times when more distant objects are too faint to be measured. I am currently working with the Pan-STARRS Survey for Transients to observe and follow-up nearby supernovae.

MLCS2k2 is the development of the multi-color light curve shape method to turn SN Ia optical light curves into precise distances. This analysis tool continues to grow and be refined, and is in use by many SN Ia projects. The CfA II sample of SN Ia, presented in my doctoral thesis, comprises 44 objects homogeneously observed and analyzed, including the largest collection of near-ultraviolet U-band light curves published at the time.

We are also trying to understand the progenitors and explosion mechanism for SN Ia. In particular, we are interested in studying objects that are "peculiar cousins" to normal SN Ia, like the recently identified class of type Iax supernovae, named after the prototype SN 2002cx. Our recent work, led by former graduate student Curtis McCully, suggests these are thermonuclear explosions of white dwarfs that do not completely unbind the star. A most exciting development is our discovery of the progenitor system of the type Iax SN 2012Z with the Hubble Space Telescope; this is the first time that a progenitor system for a white dwarf explosion has ever been seen in pre-explosion images.

Extrasolar planets

I am also interested in the detection and characterization of planets around other stars. With the AFOE group, we discovered the planetary companion to rho Coronae Borealis in 1997. In addition, colleagues and I have shown that a few of the transiting companions discovered by the OGLE survey are planets, including OGLE-TR-56b (the first planet discovered first by its transit), OGLE-TR-113b, and OGLE-TR-10b.

SALT

Rutgers is a partner in the Southern African Large Telescope. SALT is one of the world's largest optical telescopes and I have been using it in many facets of my research to observe supernovae near and far. I also recently chaired the SALT Science Committee.

Teaching

Byrne Seminar: Death from the Skies? (spring 2013)

Physics 106. Concepts in Physics (spring 2013, 2014)

Physics 110. Astronomy & Cosmology (fall 2011, 2012, 2013)

Physics 341. Principles of Astrophysics (fall 2008, 2009, 2010)

Physics 342. Principles of Astrophysics (spring 2009, 2010, 2011)

Physics 514. Radiative Processes (spring 2014, 2015)

Physics 690. Special Topics in Astrophysics: The Dark Universe (spring 2008)

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