Advisory Board

Professor Robert J. Nemiroff

Robert J. Nemiroff, Ph.D. is Professor of Physics, Michigan Technological University. He is also coauthor of Astronomy: 365 Days and The Universe: 365 Days.
Robert’s interests include gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), gravitational lensing, sky monitoring, and the use of the web to disseminate astronomical information. He is known partly for his involvement in the contentious debate over the GRB distance scale in the mid-1990s, collaborating on a series of papers advocating that GRB attributes were consistent with occurring at cosmological distances, and that GRBs might one day be useful as probes of cosmology.
Robert now really does use GRBs to probe the structure of the universe, with notable published efforts including the lack of gravitational lensing of GRBs to limit the cosmological abundance of compact dark mater (2001) and the bunchiness of some very high energy GRB photons to limit the graininess of spacetime (2012). Among his best cited works are those quantifying general attributes of GRB pulses — the main internal structural component of GRBs.
His interest in gravitational microlensing has led to several predictions that have come true. First, in his Ph.D. thesis in 1987, he predicted that some binary star microlensing events would occur and show abrupt but useful light curve spikes caused by image pair creation and annihilation events. In 1988 he predicted that microlensing could be used to probe the broad line region of quasars. Last, in 1994, he led one of the papers that predicted the existence and possible subsequent usefulness of finite sizes of source stars in microlensing.
Robert has led in the concept, engineering, and deployment of autonomous all-sky web cameras, originally dubbed CONCAMs, starting with an initial deployment to Kitt Peak National Observatory in April of 2000. At one point in the mid-2000s, 11 fisheye monitors of his design were deployed to the world’s foremost observatories around the world. Although created to monitor stars, even used solely as cloud monitors these and the next-generation devices (usually not of his design) now in use make observational astronomy both temporally and financially more efficient.
He is a founding editor of the Astrophysics Source Code Library, a repository that today lists over 500 codes.
He is a founding editor and has written many of the entries for the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website. Founded in 1995, APOD is one of the oldest and most popular science blogs, now averaging over 1M page views per day.
In 1994 Robert, along with a colleague, set the (then) world record for computing the digits of e, the golden mean, and the square roots of single digit integers to see if these digits were effectively random.
His papers include Bounds on Spectral Dispersion from Fermi-Detected Gamma Ray Bursts, The possible impact of gamma-ray burst detector thresholds on cosmological standard candles, Adventures in Friedmann cosmology: A detailed expansion of the cosmological Friedmann equations, Tile or Stare? Cadence and Sky-monitoring Observing Strategies That Maximize the Number of Discovered Transients, Toward a Continuous Record of the Sky, CONCAM Sky Monitor Operating at KPNO, Limits on the cosmological abundance of supermassive compact objects from a millilensing search in gamma-ray burst data, Attributes of Pulses in Long Bright Gamma-Ray Bursts, Visual distortions near a neutron star and black hole, and AGN broad emission line amplification from gravitational microlensing.
Robert earned his B.S. in Engineering Physics at Lehigh University in 1982. He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987.