Although quite rare, massive stars are a dominant source of light in galaxies. Their high surface temperatures mean that much of this light is emitted as ultraviolet photons, which ionize the gas in adjacent star-forming regions to produce beautiful nebulae such as the ones seen in the image above.
These UV photons also drive fast and dense wind outflows from massive stars, whose energy and momentum sculpt huge bubbles in the interstellar medium. This feedback continues throughout the stars' brief lifetimes, until they finally explode as supernovae, enriching the interstellar medium with nucleosynthetically-processed material and triggering new waves of star formation. This underscores the pivotal role played by massive stars in governing the evolution of the gas, dust, and stellar populations composing galaxies.
The Massive Stars Group at UW-Madison undertakes research into dynamical phenomena of massive stars — winds, oscillations, rotation, and magnetic fields. Primarily, our focus is on the theory side of these phenomena, but we place a strong emphasis on matching theoretical predictions (typically, in the form of computer models) against observational data. Hence, we maintain strong collaborative ties with the wider massive-star community, and in particular are deeply involved in the MiMeS (Magnetism in Massive Stars) Project.