Pappalardo Fellow in Physics, 2021-2024

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Kevin Burdge’s interests lie in discovering and characterizing astrophysical sources of both gravitational and electromagnetic radiation, especially those detectable by the upcoming space-based gravitational wave detector, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA).

These sources are Galactic binary systems with orbital periods of less than an hour, and consist of two compact objects–generally a white dwarf with either a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole companion.

LISA is expected to detect tens of thousands of such binaries within the Milky Way, and Burdge’s work focuses on leveraging data from current and upcoming wide-field optical surveys such as the Zwicky Transient Facility, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and the Vera Rubin Observatory to discover and precisely constrain the physical parameters of these objects using the photons they emit.

So far, Burdge has doubled the number of known examples of LISA-detectable binaries in the span of two years using the Zwicky Transient Facility, including the two shortest orbital period eclipsing binary systems known, and he has measured general relativistic orbital decay in several of these systems.

Short period binaries hosting two compact objects can be used to perform novel tests of General Relativity, precisely constrain the equation of state of objects such as white dwarfs, and study the processes of binary evolution which produce these systems. Many of these binaries are double white dwarf pairs predicted to produce a Type Ia supernova upon merger, a type of explosion which allowed for the measurement of the accelerating expansion of the universe.