Project Overview

Dark Matter and Stellar Evolution

Faculty Sponsor

Cosmin Ilie (


Physics and Astronomy


This project is geared towards students with a strong interest in the interface between numerical cosmology, astrophysics, and in particular in Dark Matter phenomenology. If Dark Matter is formed of weakly interactive massive particles (WIMPs), it was previously shown that it can lead to a new phase in the stellar evolution, where a star is powered by Dark Matter annihilations instead of nuclear fusion. Such objects, Dark Stars, can reach masses as large as one million sollar masses, and could be observed with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Recently, the WIMP paradigm came under strong experimental constraints, which are on the verge of ruling it out. Its therefore important to study if Dark Stars could form for other Dark Matter candidates. One of the leading such candidates is the WIMPZILLA, a massive scalar field gravitationally produced during the inflation epoch of the universe. On the other end of the mass spectrum, we have another very promising Dark Matter candidate, the axion. One of the main aims of this project is to learn about the capture of non-WIMP Dark Matter in compact environments, such as stars, and study the possible observational consequences of this phenomenon.
Another project, strongly related to the one described abvove,  is more observational in nature. Students will become intimately familiar with  relevant photometric and spectroscopic signatures of Dark Stars vs. those of the first galaxies, and should be able to apply those techniques to identify possible Supermassive Dark Star candidates in the Hubble data, and in the near future, in the James Web Telescope data. 


Student Qualifications

Proficency with Matlab and willingness to devote some time to learn about stars and dark matter. 

Number of Student Researchers

3 students

Project Length

8 weeks

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (