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Physics Department

Astrophysics Research


While astrophysics deals with objects at unimaginably large distances from the Earth, our emphasis on observational astrophysics gives midshipmen hands-on technical experience with concepts and technologies they will use in their military careers.  Our 0.5 meter telescopes can satisfy a large number of time-based monitoring of astrophysical objects, including successful observations of asteroid/comet orbits, rotations, occultations, exoplanet transits and stellar stability. Midshipmen have the opportunity to collaborate with our research faculty on cutting edge astrophysics research projects including quasars, massive stars, asteroids, and comets.


20 inch reflector and 12 inch refractor observatories



Astrophysics Research

Here are the professors that are currently working on research concerning astrophysics. Midshipmen are encouraged to reach out to professors to conduct research.

Jennifer Bartlett

Jennifer Bartlett came to the Naval Academy from the Naval Observatory where she developed practical applications based on knowledge of the positions and motions of celestial bodies. She is especially interested in techniques and tools that support celestial navigation and night-time operations. She is assessing observational data taken at sea to improve the illumination and refraction models used in tactical decision aids. In addition, she is finishing some studies of the nearest stars that give context to our place in the Milky Way Galaxy; so far, her work has detected nearly one exoplanet. Finally, she is also active in the fields of history of science and science communications.


Matthew Knight

Matthew Knight

Matthew Knight is interested in comets, asteroids, interstellar objects, and other small bodies in the solar system. These are the 'fossils' of planet formation, and their study can inform us about how our (and other) solar system formed and subsequently evolved. He uses  observations from a variety of ground- and space-based telescopes to remotely study their physical properties. He is also a member of two space missions currently under development -- NASA's Double Asteroid  Redirect Target (DART) and the European Space Agency's Comet Interceptor -- that will visit small bodies in the next decade.

Jeffrey Larsen

Jeffrey Larsen came to USNA after nearly a decade working to find near-Earth asteroids with the Spacewatch Program at the University of Arizona.  Asteroids are important to humanity -- they help us understand the creation of the solar system, promise to be a future source of natural resources and are a (remotely) possible source of natural disasters if not monitored.  Larsen still works with Spacewatch and observes with world class telescopes to support them but his research interests at USNA are currently focused on creating viable student research instruments out of our two 0.5 meter telescopes in the fields of asteroid orbits, lightcurves, occultation observations, exoplanet transit monitoring, space situational awareness observations and any time based astronomical
observation involving photometry.

Matthew Knight

Jamie Lomax


Christopher Morgan

Quasars are the most luminous sources in the Universe, but the precise mechanism that leads to this prodigious luminosity is in open question. The physical structure of quasars is notoriously difficult to study since all known quasars are located billions of light years from Earth.  The angular sizes they subtend at these impossibly large distances are simply too small to be resolved with any conventional telescopes. My collaborators and I have succeeded in skirting this limitation by exploiting a small subset of quasars that happen to be gravitationally lensed by galaxies in the foreground.

Jeff Larsen
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