Professor Cole Miller

Development of a Bayesian Method to Constrain the Properties of Neutron Star Matter
February – June 2020

Who is Cole Miller?

Photo MCMillerProfessor M. Coleman Miller is one of the world’s foremost experts on theoretical astrophysics broadly and gravitational-wave astronomy in particular. His main research field is Theory and modeling of high-energy radiation from neutron stars and black holes.

He is a Full Professor at the University of Maryland. At the Maryland Astronomy Center for Theory and Computation he held a position as Chair in 2004-2006 and 2017-2019. At the Joint Space-Science Institute he was Director in 2013-2014 and Astronomy Director in 2015-2017.

Why was he nominated?

Prof. Cole Miller was nominated by prof. dr. Peter Jonker and prof. dr. Gijs Nelemans of the department of Astrophysics within Radboud University’s Institute for Mathematics, Astrophysics and Particle Physics (IMAPP). They find that as one of the leading theoretical astrophysicists of his generation, Miller combines the latest theoretical work in astrophysics with the latest observational developments. He is remarkable in his ability to explain difficult theoretical physics concepts in crystal clear language and examples.

As an expert in gravitational wave astrophysics, black holes and their astrophysical ‘cousins’ neutron starts, his work is closely connected to our Astrophysics department. His Radboud Excellence professorship will coincide with the operational start of the Radboud-led telescopes called BlackGEM, based in Chile. His presence at Radboud during this time will be instrumental in interpreting the detected gravitational wave events and the presence of absence of their counterparts in optical light through BlackGEM.

First double neutron star merger

Artist's conception from the first double neutron star merger

What is his research project about?

Neutron stars represent some of the most extreme conditions in the universe, in their densities, gravity, and magnetic fields. The matter in their cores is in a state inaccessible to terrestrial laboratories, and current theories disagree strongly about the composition and properties of this matter. A better understanding of neutron star cores will therefore provide a major boost to our comprehension of nuclear physics in general, with likely practical benefits in many fields that use nuclear principles, including energy production and medical applications.

A wealth of new information about neutron stars is coming in the form of astronomical observations. At IMAPP, prof. Miller worked with statisticians, astronomers, and physicists to construct a comprehensive framework that will incorporate the information from diverse observations and experiments to produce the most rigorous and thorough constraints on neutron star matter.

Key publications

  • M.C. Miller and F.K. Lamb (2015) Determining Neutron Star Properties by Fitting Oblate Schwarzschild Waveforms To X-ray Burst Oscillations, Astrophysical Journal808, 31.
  • M.C. Miller (2016) Implications of the Gravitational Wave Event GW150914. General Relativity and Gravitation48, 95.

During his Radboud Excellence professorship

Miller attended every weekly Astronomy department meeting and in-person faculty meetings, as well as every theory group meeting within Astronomy. He had individual research discussions with Peter Jonker, Gijs Nelemans, and Monika Moscibrodzka; outcomes to be determined in terms of research. Also, Miller was on the thesis committee for two Radboud students. In his own words:

"The Institute for Mathematics, Astrophysics and Particle Physics (IMAPP) at Radboud is a well-integrated institute with leaders in a wide variety of subjects. I mainly worked with the Astronomy department, which has a number of experts on compact objects and high-energy astrophysics, but I also had numerous fruitful conversations with theoretical physicists.

A standout aspect of the astronomy department was its friendly interactivity; this is an often-overlooked part of making a department function. The informal atmosphere meant that I was able to have peer-level conversations with everyone, from graduate students to professors. This facilitated my own education and, I hope, the learning process of others. I would certainly return if possible!"

Presentations at Radboud University:

  • 19th February 2020: “Extremal Principles in Physics”, astronomy theory seminar, Radboud University
  • 10th March 2020: “A NICER Measurement of a Neutron Star”, astronomy colloquium, Radboud University
  • 16th April 2020: “The Insides of Neutron Stars”, astrophysics seminar, Center for Computational Astrophysics, Flatiron Institute
  • 3th July 2020: “What Can We Learn From Gravitational-Wave Observations?”, invited talk, European Astronomical Society meeting

Prof. Miller also attended a LISA meeting at Radboud and taught two classes on neutron stars for Prof. Gijs Nelemans.

Publications with Radboud University affiliation

  • A. Olejak, K. Belczynski, D.E. Holz, J.-P. Lasota, T. Bulik, M.C. Miller (2020, submitted) Making GW190412: isolated formation of a 30 + 10 Msun binary black--hole merger (arXiv:2004.11866).
  • Korol, V., Mandel, I., Miller, M.C., Church, R.P., Davies, M.B. (2020) “Merger Rates in Primordial Black Hole Clusters Without Initial Binaries.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 496.1 (2020): 994–1000.
  • Connor, M.C. Miller, D.W. Gardenier (2020, in press) Beaming as an explanation of the repetition/pulse width relation in FRBs, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (arXiv:2003.11930).
  • There are several papers anticipated from NASA’s NICER mission.

If you want to know more