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PRObes of Gravitational-wave progENITORs

Project description

From super-massive stars to gravitational waves

Gravitational waves are invisible changes in the curvature of spacetime, like ripples in a pond caused by some of the most violent and energetic events in our universe. They are created by the merger of two black holes, in turn created by the collapse of massive stars at the end of their lifetimes. With the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the PROGENITOR project is profiling the most massive and exceedingly rare stars we know, Wolf-Rayet stars, which are at an advanced stage of evolution and losing mass at a very high rate. Studies will enable better understanding of massive star evolution and the distant origins of gravitational waves.


Stars initially ten times more massive than our Sun play a vital role in the evolution of the Cosmos. Their death is marked by the sudden collapse of their cores into neutron stars or black holes. Somehow, tight couples of massive black holes in the distant Universe occasionally merge, unleashing powerful gravitational waves that are now regularly being measured. The underlying processes that lead to the formation of these pairs remain shrouded in mystery, entailing an intricate story about the life cycle of their PROGENITORs -- the most massive and evolved stars. This reminded the astrophysical community of huge gaps in our knowledge of key processes governing massive-star evolution, related to binary interactions, mass-loss, and mixing. To mitigate this, we must obtain robust empirical constraints on the multiplicity, configuration, and stellar properties of the direct progenitors of black holes in regions that approach the conditions of the distant Universe: the Wolf-Rayet populations of the Magellanic Clouds. The MSCA fellowship offers an ideal platform for achieving this, relying on my unique skills, data, and tools in massive-star spectroscopy with training in state-of-the-art evolution models of stellar populations that I will receive at the University of Amsterdam. I will exploit brand new multi-epoch, multiwavelength monitoring spectroscopy obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and Very Large Telescope (VLT). I will establish the physical and orbital properties of entire populations of Wolf-Rayet stars and binaries in the Magellanic Clouds relying on state-off-the-art tools and novel analysis techniques. I will compute population-synthesis models to constrain the evolutionary paths of gravitational-wave mergers. Through this, I will push our understanding of massive stars and gravitational wave sources throughout the Cosmos to new frontiers.


Net EU contribution
€ 175 572,48
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 175 572,48