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Virginia Institute of Theoretical Astronomy

Founded in 1985, VITA is a center for research on theoretical problems in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Virginia within the Department of Astronomy. VITA is funded in part by research grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Formation and Evolution of Stars and Exoplanets

Zhi-Yun Li studies many topics in star formation, including molecular clouds, dense cores, protostellar disks and magnetohydrodynamic winds from disk systems.

Phil Arras works on issues related to extrasolar planets, including cooling models of gas giants, hot Jupiter's magnetospheres and tidal interaction between planets and their host stars.

Jonathan Tan works on theoretical models, including simulations, of the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and supermassive black holes. 

Computational Astronomy, Accretion, and Radiative Transfer

Shane Davis studies the accretion physics and magnetohydrodynamics through numerical simulations.

Shazrene Mohamed uses hydrodynamic simulations to investigate mass transfer in binaries, stellar winds and explosions, stellar collisions and star-planet interactions.


Roger Chevalier studies supernovae and their interaction with their environment. He has worked on models for neutrino-cooled neutron star accretion in SN1987A. He also studies mechanisms for shock wave emission and instabilities.

Galaxy Clusters

Craig Sarazin and his group study astrophysics of galaxy clusters. Their theoretical work includes central cooling flows in clusters and cluster mergers, and complements their work with data obtained from UV and X-ray observatories.


Bill Saslaw studies gravitational clustering and the formation of large scale structure in the universe.

Interstellar Medium

Roger Chevalier studies the interaction of supernovae with the surrounding interstellar medium.

Shazrene Mohamed studies the interaction of stellar outflows with the interstellar medium.

Galaxy Formation and Evolution

Paul Torrey studies the origin and evolution of galaxies including the impact of star formation and associated feedback, the growth of supermassive black holes, and the underlying assumptions in our cosmological models including the nature of Dark Matter.


The University of Virginia's Advanced Research Computing Services operates Rivanna, a traditional high performance computing cluster with over 6300 computing nodes.