• Astronomers confirm that nearby star a good model of our early solar system
    Astronomers confirm that nearby star a good model of our early solar system
  • Researchers image quasiparticles that could lead to faster circuits, higher bandwidths
    Researchers image quasiparticles that could lead to faster circuits, higher bandwidths
  • A first sighting of the Higgs boson decay to quarks with the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider
    A first sighting of the Higgs boson decay to quarks with the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider
  • RHIC helps answer the question, "How did the proton get its spin?"
    RHIC helps answer the question, "How did the proton get its spin?"
  • Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity
    Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity
  • New material discovery allows study of elusive Weyl fermion
    New material discovery allows study of elusive Weyl fermion
  • ISU physicists help demonstrate existence of new subatomic structure
    ISU physicists help demonstrate existence of new subatomic structure
  • Tringides receives the 2017 Theodore E. Madey Award from the American Vacuum Society
    Tringides receives the 2017 Theodore E. Madey Award from the American Vacuum Society
  • Canfield awarded James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials by the American Physical Society
    Canfield awarded James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials by the American Physical Society
  • Iowa State physicists win W.M. Keck Foundation grant to develop nanoscope
    Iowa State physicists win W.M. Keck Foundation grant to develop nanoscope
  • New detector technology for neutrino experiments. ISU postdoc Carrie McGivern inspects part of the ANNIE detector.
    New detector technology for neutrino experiments. ISU postdoc Carrie McGivern inspects part of the ANNIE detector.
  • Catching relativistic electrons with your bare hands
    Catching relativistic electrons with your bare hands
  • ISU physicist Mayly Sanchez analyzes the first neutrino detections from the NOvA experiment.
    ISU physicist Mayly Sanchez analyzes the first neutrino detections from the NOvA experiment.
  • NSF and DOE honors for Flint and Weinstein.
    NSF and DOE honors for Flint and Weinstein.
  • Iowa State researchers describe copper-induced misfolding of prion proteins
    Iowa State researchers describe copper-induced misfolding of prion proteins
  • Citizen Scientists Lead Iowa State Astronomer to Mystery Objects in Space
    Citizen Scientists Lead Iowa State Astronomer to Mystery Objects in Space
  • Kepler astronomers discover ancient star with five Earth-size planets
    Kepler astronomers discover ancient star with five Earth-size planets
  • New window into growing metal nanostructures
    New window into growing metal nanostructures
  • Iowa State astronomers investigate mysterious star
    Iowa State astronomers investigate mysterious star
  • ISU graduate creates adventure at MIT
    ISU graduate creates adventure at MIT

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Welcome to the Department of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and astronomy explores the behavior and structure of matter and energy at all levels to help describe our world and the universe. Physics has helped us contemplate the origins of the universe and develop new products and technologies that meet human needs. The fundamental laws of physics find application in almost every branch of science, engineering and technology.

The Department has active research programs in Astronomy/Astrophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, High-energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Biophysics. Our high-energy physics, particle astrophysics and nuclear physics groups are involved in experiments which recreate the conditions of the early universe and help explain how it has evolved. In providing instruction in classical and modern physics, we cover such areas as mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, introductory modern physics, and quantum mechanics.


Black Holes in the Universe (and Hollywood)

Professor Roger Blandford, Stanford University

Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies that black holes could exist, astrophysicists demonstrated that they should exist, and astronomers, observing with many different telescopes, have demonstrated that they are common in the universe. They are found with masses ranging from a few times to more than ten billion times that of the sun. They are observed from the lowest radio frequencies to the highest energy gamma rays and most recently through gravitational radiation. We are getting close to the point where they can be imaged directly so that we should be able to test our ideas of how they work. The strange and wonderful behavior of black holes will be described and compared with some alternate realities created in the movies.