Astrophysics at the UTFSM

The recently formed Astrophysical Sciences group at UTFSM is designed to have two divisions: extragalactic (Campus San Joaquín, Santiago) and stellar astrophysics (Campus Central, Valpraíso). Both divisions work observationally and theoretically on vibrant research fields. The stellar astrophysics group is focussed on planetary science, compact objects, and binary stars while the extragalactic division concentrates on cosmology, galaxy formation and evolution, large-scale structure, and the halo-galaxy connection. In 2020 the first two academics were contracted, Antonio Montero-Dorta for the Campus San Joaquin and Matthias Schreiber for the Central Campus in Valparaíso. In 2021 and 2022 additional Professors will be hired for both divisions.


Stellar Astrophysics (Campus Valparaíso)

The Stellar Astrophysics group will work mostly on two different but related topics covering some of the most vital areas of modern astrophysics.

The discovery of the first exoplanet around a sun-like star in 1995 revolutionized modern astrophysics. Various space and ground based observing facilities have been built in the last 25 years and led to the discovery of a large variety of exoplanetary systems. With now more than 4000 discovered exoplanets, the field shifts from planet hunting planets towards characterizing the chemical composition of exoplanets and understanding their formation and evolution. As part of the Millennium Nucleus for Planet Formation (, the astrophysics group at the Campus Central in Valparaíso aims at playing a major role in planetary sciences.

The second focus of our group are compact stars mostly in close binary star settings. These binaries produce some of the most energetic and fascinating events in the Universe ranging from supernovae Ia, the thermonuclear explosion of white dwarfs in close binaries, to short gamma-ray bursts which are related to the merging of two neutron stars in a close binary star configuration. At the Campus Central in Valparaíso we study the evolution of these close compact binary stars using observations performed with the arsenal of telescopes located in Chile and theoretical binary star population synthesis.

We plan to grow by hiring academics that strengthen, complement, and/or extend our current research lines.


Current research lines and some selected recent publications: 

Planetary Science

We aim at discovering and characterizing extrasolar planets and protoplanetary disks and in the near future hope to relate planet formation theories and exoplanet demographics. We also work on the dynamical evolution of planetary systems and the impact of the evolution of the host star including effects like tides and evaporation among others.…640A..13S/abstract…610A..13C/abstract…898L..23R/abstract…887L…4S/abstract

White dwarfs and planets around white dwarfs

We study magnetic field generation and evolution in white dwarfs, metal polluted white dwarfs, and planets around white dwarfs. The latter is clearly related to research line a). We also participate in large scale observational surveys of white dwarfs such as SDSS  V.…61G/abstract

The evolution of compact binary stars

We participate in observational surveys of close compact binary stars and perform theoretical binary population synthesis. So far we focus mostly on white dwarf binaries. We aim at a better understanding of fundamental processes such as common envelope evolution or magnetic braking.


Extragalactic Astrophysics (Campus Santiago)

The Extragalactic Astrophysics group at Campus San Joaquin will address fundamental questions in the fields of cosmology, the large-scale structure of the Universe (LSS), galaxy formation and evolution, and the halo-galaxy connection. Particular emphasis will be given to projects lying in the interface between galaxy evolution and cosmology. These two fields have progressively converged into an overlapping research space in the context of next-generation cosmological surveys. Cosmology needs information about the properties of galaxies, not only for targeting and completeness purposes, but also in order to optimize the LSS mapping and the extraction of cosmological information from (LSS) multi-tracer samples. The formation and evolution of galaxies, on the other hand, cannot be disconnected from that of their hosting halos, which is dictated, to a high degree, by the amount of dark matter and dark energy present in the Universe.

The San Joaquin group aims at integrating multiple observational and theoretical techniques in order to shed light onto the above interconnected research fields. Among these tools : N-body numerical simulations of dark matter, hydrodynamical simulations for the baryonic component, cosmological survey data, semi-analytical models of galaxy formation and evolution and/or machine learning techniques.

We are also interested in developing new research lines, particularly related to a) machine learning applied to cosmology and the halo-galaxy connection, and b) gravitational waves (GW) as tracers of the LSS.


Research lines:

LSS: secondary halo bias -- halo assembly bias -- galaxy assembly bias

This line addresses study of the Large-Scale Structure (LSS) of the Universe from theory, simulations, and observations. Particular emphasis is given to elucidating the physical origins of secondary halos bias (the secondary dependencies of halo bias on halo properties at fixed mass) and investigating the manifestation of these effects on the galaxy population (galaxy assembly bias).

Halo-galaxy connection models

We intend to develop models that connect galaxies with halos in the context of SHAM, HOD, SAMs, or machine learning techniques.

Formation and evolution of galaxies from survey data and hydrodynamical simulations

This line will be devoted to the determination of the statistical properties of the galaxy population from massive galaxy surveys. Hydrodynamical simulations such as Illustris will be used to interpret observational results.

Extraction of cosmological information from survey data

This line will be devoted to the development of methods that can optimize the extraction of cosmological information from surveys such as J-PAS or, particularly, the LSST.

Gravitational wave science

This is a new research line where we will explore the potential of GW sources as LSS tracers for cosmological studies.