Brian McNamara

Brian McNamara
Chair, Physics and Astronomy, Professor
Location: PHY 261
Phone: 519-888-4567 x48170


Giant black holes weighing upwards of one billion times the mass of the Sun are thought to lurk at the centers of all massive galaxies. Energy released by spin breaking and infalling matter onto such supermassive black holes may be regulating the growth of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

Research Interests

  • Astrophysics and Gravitation
  • Galaxy clusters: intracluster medium
  • Galaxy formation: star formation, supermassive black holes
  • Radio galaxies
  • Surveys of distant clusters and AGN
  • X-ray, Optical, ultraviolet, infrared, radio observations of galaxies and clusters
  • Space astronomy, X-ray astronomy
  • Astronomy


  • 1991 Ph.D., Astronomy, University of Virginia
  • 1987 M.A., Astronomy, University of Virginia
  • 1981 B.S., Astronomy, Villanova University


  • 2008 - 2015: Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Waterloo, University Research Chair in Astrophysics
  • 2000: NASA Group Achievement Award, Chandra X-ray Center Development and Operations Team. "For exemplary performance and conttributions to the design, development, implementation, and operation of the Chandra X-ray Center”
  • 2000: NASA Group Achievement Award, Science Team. "For exemplary performance and contributions to the scientific requirements and the scientific integrity of the design, development, testing, and operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory."
  • 1997: Special Act for a Successful Spacecraft Experiment, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: “Certificate of Award for significant contributions to the AXAF calibration."
  • 1996: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, "Certificate of Award for significant contributions to the AXAF Science Center, and for a very high level of scientific research.”

Professional Associations

  • 2010 - 2016: Director, Guelph Waterloo Physics Institute
  • 2008 - present: International X-ray Observatory Science Associate
  • 2006 - present: Canadian Astronomical Society
  • 2003 - 2008: Constellation-X Facility Science Team panel on Clusters of Galaxies
  • 2002 - 2003: Sigma Xi
  • 2000 - present: High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society
  • 1989 - present: American Astronomical Society

Affiliations and Volunteer Work

  • Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics


  • PHYS 225 - Modeling Life Physics
    • Taught in 2023
  • PHYS 270 - Astronomical Observations, Instrumentation and Data Analysis
    • Taught in 2020, 2021
  • PHYS 375 - Stars
    • Taught in 2023, 2024
  • PHYS 491 - Special Topics in Life, Medical and Biophysics
    • Taught in 2023

* Only courses taught in the past 5 years are displayed.

Selected/Recent Publications

  • B.R. McNamara, P.E.J. Nulsen, D.A. Rafferty, M. Wise, C. Carilli, C.L. Sarazin, E.L. Blanton. "The heating of gas in a galaxy cluster by X-ray cavities and large-scale shock fronts". 2005, Nature, 433, 45
  • L. Birzan, D. A. Rafferty, B. R. McNamara, M. W. Wise, & P. E. J. Nulsen. "A Systematic Study of Radio-Induced X-ray Cavities in Clusters, Groups, and Galaxies". 2004, ApJ, 607, 800
  • B.R. McNamara, M. Wise, P.E.J. Nulsen, L.P. David, C.L. Sarazin, M. Bautz, M. Markevitch, A. Vikhlinin, W.R. Forman, C. Jones, & D.E. Harris. "Chandra X-ray Observations of the Hydra A Cluster: An Interaction between the Radio Source and the Cluster's X-ray-emitting Gas". 2000, ApJ, 534, L135
  • B.R. McNamara, M.W. Wise, P.E.J. Nulsen, C.L. Sarazin, L.P. David, M. Donahue, C.P. O'Dea, S. Baum, M. Voit, R.W. O'Connell, & A. Koekemoer. "Discovery of Ghost Cavities in the X-ray Atmosphere of Abell 2597'. 2001, ApJ, 562, L149
  • C. R. Mullis, B.R. McNamara, H. Quintana, A. Vikhlinin, J. P. Henry, I. M. Gioia, A. Hornstrup, W. Forman, C. Jones. "The 160 Square Degree ROSAT Survey: The Revised Catalog of 201 Clusters with Spectroscopic Redshifts". 2003, ApJ, 594, 154
  • Please see Google Scholar for a complete list of Dr. McNamara's publications

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