Philosophy of Astrophysics

The Milky Way from Las Campanas Observatory (taken with a DSLR)



Philosophy of Science | Philosophy of Astrophysics | Models & Computer Simulations

My research in the philosophy of science focuses on the use of models and computer simulations in science, and in astrophysics in particular. I also examine issues in philosophy of astrophysics including philosophical questions related to dark matter, and astrophysical methodology more generally.

At the University of Cincinnati, I conduct this work in part through the Jacquart Astrophysics and Philosophy Interdisciplinary Teaching, Engagement, and Research Lab (J*PITER Lab). My lab consists of undergraduate astronomy majors, philosophy graduate students, and partners with an astrophysicists as well as citizen scientists. Together we undertake astronomical research while reflecting on the science’s methodology and philosophical implications. My lab also trains its members in best practices as it relates to teaching and public engagement about astronomy and philosophy. Our current main project involves developing and curating an extensive collisional ring galaxy catalogue.

This catalogue is in connection to an ongoing interdisciplinary research project on dark matter (and my prior work connected to NSF-SBE #1557138). Cosmological models predict that 25% of the universe is composed of dark matter. In addition to not knowing what dark matter is, there is no clear understanding of where most of it resides. Our group is attempting to find some of this missing dark matter. Our guiding empirical hypothesis is that at least some of the missing dark matter is in dark galaxies—galaxies that are composed entirely of dark matter. These dark galaxies have no visible matter, either because they lost it early on, or they never acquired it in the first place. We are searching for these dark galaxies, and studying how the unique blend of observation, simulation, citizen science, and theorizing warrants inferences about dark matter. As astrophysicists and philosophers working together, we hope to provide a clearer picture of how to examine, explain, and evaluate the logic of such arguments in the field of astrophysics, and provide a model for interdisciplinary work.

Not only is astrophysics one of the least studied sciences by philosophers of science, it provides an especially promising case study for core philosophical themes about empirical evidence, observation, and computer simulation. The philosophical research program connected to this astrophysical research investigates the paths of dependence between theory, observation, and computation in modern astrophysics, and the nature of astrophysical evidence more generally.


Jacquart Astrophysics and Philosophy Interdisciplinary Teaching, Engagement, and Research Lab (J*PITER Lab) Members

Graduate Student Researchers

Walt Orozco is a Yates Fellow and Ph.D. student in the Philosophy Department at the University of Cincinnati. He is also part of the administrative team for the Philosophy of Science Association. His research focuses on the philosophy of physics, with a particular interest in what philosophy can offer scientific understanding. He is also interested in researching how to make education more accessible to underprivileged groups. He also hopes to investigate queer theory from a philosophical perspective.

Undergraduate Student Researchers

Prasanna Adhikari is a sophomore undergraduate at UC double majoring in astrophysics and mathematics. His research interests are in dark energy and dark matter alongside observational astronomy. He is am fluent in 3 languages (Nepali, Hindi, & English) and in the process of learning French. In his free time, Prasanna enjoys tasting new food and traveling.

Henry Senturia is a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati majoring in Astrophysics and seeking certificates in Creative Writing and Deaf Studies. His research interests include exoplanets, planetary evolution, dark matter, and orbital mechanics. He’s also interested in scientific communication and fostering more effective interdisciplinary research. Outside of academics, you may find him hiking, building model rockets, reading, story writing, or composing music.

(Prospective undergraduate and graduate students are always welcome to email me for more information about how to get involved!)