Hello, שלום, hallo, hola, ٱلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ! ;-)
My name is Tomer Shenar, an assistant professor at the University of Tel Aviv, Israel (as of Jan. 2024).
My research focuses on massive stars. Today, we know that the vast majority of massive stars interact with companion stars during their lifetime: My research is dedicated to study this interaction and its implication on stellar evolution.
I collect and use multi-wavelength spectroscopic, photometric, and interferometric data with the world's largest telescopes to infer the observational properties of massive stars and binaries in the Local Group. I develop and utilise state-of-the-art model atmospheres and spectral disentangling algorithms to derive robust constraints on the progenitors of compact objects (Wolf-Rayet stars, OB-type stars, stripped stars), with the goal of advancing our understanding of the evolution of massive stars and binaries and the production of gravitational-wave sources. I am a co-developer of the Potsdam Wolf-Rayet (PoWR) code.
2007-2010: BSc in Mathematics & physics, Technion, Israel
2011-2013; MSc in Physics, Uni. Potsdam, Germany
2013-2017; PhD, Uni. Potsdam, Germany
2017-2018: Postdoc, Uni. Potsdam, Germany
2018 - 2021: Postdoc, KU Leuven, Belgium
2021 - now: Marie-Curie fellow, Uni. Amsterdam, NL
2021 - now (suspended): FWO postdoc fellow, KU Leuven, Belgium
2023 - 2024: group leader, Programa de Atracción de Talento, CAB, Madrid, Spain
Jan. 2024: assistant professor, University of Tel Aviv, Israel.
First robust detection of a magnetic Wolf-Rayet star; Shenar et al. 2023, Science, 381, 761
First discovery of an unambiguous dormant black hole outside our Galaxy; Shenar et al. 2022, Nature Astronomy, 6, 1085
First evidence for flat mass-ratio distribution at subsolar metallicity; Shenar et al. 2022, A&A, 665, 148)
Discovery of a new type of post-interaction binaries ("black hole impostors"); Shenar et al. 2020, A&A, 639, 6
Metallicity-dependent luminosity criteria for the Wolf-Rayet phenomenon; Shenar et al. 2020, A&A, 634, 79
An artist's impression of VFTS 243, the first unambiguous dormant stellar-mass black hole detected outside our Galaxy
Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada
(taken from an article in "The Guardian")
PhD & MSc students
PhD: Karan Dsilva
Karan takes a modern look at the Galactic Wolf-Rayet stars and tries to understand how they evolved.
Karan is now a postdoc in the Gaia team at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium
PhD: Julila Bodensteiner
Julia searches for post-interaction binaries in clusters.
Julia finds a clear excess of Be stars in evolved clusters. Together with Julia, we also found some very cool Be stars (confused as black holes) hiding not far away from us!
Julia is now an independent ESO fellow at ESO@Garching
MSc + PhD: Soetkin Janssens
Soetkin analysed a highly complex Wolf-Rayet "binary" in the Large Magellanic Cloud. "Binary", because she found it's a quadruple or quintuple system, hosting one of the most massive contact systems known
Soetkin now continues her PhD under my co-supervision with the goal of hunting for black holes with Gaia -- check out her 1st PhD paper: Janssens, Shenar et al. 2022, A&A, 658, 129
Janssens, Shenar et al. 2023, A&A, in press
MSc: Roel Lefever
The majority of Wolf-Rayet analyses assume a fixed wind velocity law. Roel performed a quantitative investigation of alternative velocity laws and their impact on the spectral appearance of Wolf-Rayet stars and their inferred stellar parameters, with important implications on the properties of black-hole progenitors. Check out his publication, coming soon:
MSc: Sancho Luijten
University of Amstedam
Sancho will be analysing multi-epoch data acquired with the UVES@ESO spectrograph (PI: Shenar), targeting two very unique WR binaries. These binaries were proposed to host not one, but two Wolf-Rayet stars, and hence potentially correspond to a rare evolutionary phase prior to black-hole + black-hole binary formation.
Sancho is a PhD candidate in Barak Zackay's group at the Weizmann Institute
MSc: Ardra Ramachandran
University of Amstedam
Ardra was selected through a competitive process to participate in the ASPIRE summerschool at the Uni. Amsterdam. Her goal? Re-deriving the orbital solution a famous "dormant" black hole in our Galaxy, MWC 656.
Guess what? She found that the unseen companion weighs between 0.7-3 Msun, and hence very unlikely to be a black hole.
Ardra is a PhD student at the University of Warwick, UK
MSc: Freek Temming
University of Amsterdam
Freek will be working on new data acquired with the X-SHOOTER instrument @ VLT to establish the binary properties and physical properties of the WC population.
Fellowships & third-party funding
Jun. 2021: 3-year senior postdoc FWO fellowship , KU Leuven, Belgium
Aug. 2019: 4-yr FWO PhD fellowship (scientific PI and co-supervisor)
Sep. 2018: ERC-funded position (PI: Prof. Hugues Sana)
Jan. 2013: Richard-Winter scholarship for excellency
Prizes & awards:
Jun. 2021: KU Leuven's Research Council Award
Mar. 2018; Horizon 2020 Seal of excellence
Oct. 2017: Carl-Ramsauer award, Berlin Physics society
Jan. 2017: graduated summa cum laude
Sep. 2016: visit at the MIT, funded by the Chandra visitor program
Jul 2014: Physics thesis award, Berlin physical society
Jul. 2013: Award for outstanding achievements of international students, DAAD
3-year senior FWO fellowship (PI)
4-yr FWO PhD fellowship (scientific PI and co-supervisor
Activities in kindergartens: Introduction to our solar system
Mentoring of pupils in astronomy-related projects, at the University of Potsdam, Germany
Introducing the children to the solar system
The children draw their own impression of the solar system
The kids "pretended" to be planets revolving around the sun - lots of fun!
The kids were inspired by real pictures and simulations of planets, stars, and galaxies
My fascination for the universe has never left me ever since taking part in an astronomical event in the Negev, a desert in the southern region of Israel, at the age of 14. I learned that all these thousands of bright points in the night sky were suns, much like our own, but in different shapes and sizes. That day I realized that my connection with the stars would accompany me for the rest of my life.
Through my work, I hope to advance our understanding of stars, and inspire young, curious pupils and students to investigate the Universe we live in.
When I'm not doing science, I read, play the guitar & piano, and I love to sing. I play adventure games, dance, or just hang out with my dear ones. More about me over a beer (or two)!