Exploring the Universe at Every Scale
Caltech researchers explore the universe from today back to the Big Bang and from the scale of the cosmos to the scales of electrons, strings, and concepts of quantum mechanics.
Across Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and with colleagues worldwide, more than 80 outstanding astronomers, planetary scientists, geoscientists, physicists, engineers, applied scientists, and mathematicians at Caltech collaborate to explore our universe. They design and use instruments and facilities such as observatories, Mars rovers, and accelerators, and develop mathematics and physics to understand our world.
- Investigation of the universe's origin, cosmic characteristics, and fate
- Studies of dark matter, dark energy, and fundamental particles that make up the cosmos
- The search for the "theory of everything"—mathematics and physics that will link the standard model and general relativity, unifying quantum mechanics and gravity
Galaxies, Stars, Black Holes, and Planets
- Observations of planets, stars, and galaxies with world-leading telescopes
- Studies of warped space-time, including black holes
- The discovery and study of planets that orbit other stars (exoplanets)
- The capture of fleeting events: supernovae exploding, planets crossing in front of their stars
- Studies of atmospheric dynamics on Earth and other planets
- Observations and simulations of planets' features, geology, and interiors
The Quantum Universe
- Experiments that preserve quantum properties at scales where classical physics prevails
- Lab realization of quantum matter, teleportation of light, and transfer of quantum states, and related theoretical work
Research Centers and Partnerships
- JPL and on-campus NASA facilities
- Observatories worldwide—the W. M. Keck Observatory, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, Palomar Observatory, Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy, Owens Valley Radio Observatory, the Keck Array, and the future Thirty Meter Telescope and Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope
- Large Hadron Collider's Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment
- Daya-Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory (neutron electric dipole experiment)
- Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM)
In its exploration of the universe, Caltech collaborates with NASA and JPL, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of California system, Cornell, the University of Colorado, the European Space Agency, and many other universities and organizations.
- Faculty and alumni have won 14 Nobel Prizes in Physics, a Fields Medal, six Crafoord Prizes in astronomy and geosciences, five Kavli Prizes, and more than 20 National Medals of Science.
- Caltech shares the #1 ranking in the 2011–2012 Times Higher Ed Top 50 Physical Sciences Universities.
- Caltech physics and Earth sciences each share a #1 ranking in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report Best Grad Schools.
- Caltech researchers built powerful telescopes and pioneered infrared, high-energy X-ray, and gravitational-wave astronomy, discovered particles or laws fundamental to the standard model, identified the universe's mass and geometry, discovered that chemical elements form in stars, and identified Earth's age.
- Caltech theoretical physicists helped found superstring theory.
- Chuck Steidel won the 2010 Gruber Cosmology Prize for observations of early galaxies.
- Stanislav Smirnov (PhD '96) won the 2010 Fields Medal for work bridging mathematics and statistical physics.
- Michael Aschbacher (BS '66) led the classification of types of mathematical objects called finite simple groups (2011 Schock Prize, 2012 Wolf Prize).
- In 2012, their exoplanet research earned John Johnson the Pierce Prize and Heather Knutson the Cannon Award.
- 2012 Kavli Prize–winner Mike Brown characterized the outer solar system's Kuiper Belt and his research led to the 2008 reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet.
Emerging Fields or Areas of Research
Caltech is investing in new programs to study exoplanets, to robotically explore planets, to complete the standard model and unify it with general relativity, to scale up quantum phenomena, and to study the first two billion years of the universe.