About me

I am an astronomer and Associate Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Physics at Saint Mary's University, in Halifax, Canada. I am also the Director of the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. I was previously a Plaskett Fellow at NRC Herzberg in Victoria, an Excellence Initiative fellow at Radboud University Nijmegen (NL) and a research fellow in astrophysics at the University of Surrey, near London (UK), where I also held a postdoctoral fellowship grant from the FRQNT (Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Nature et Technologies).

I completed my PhD in 2013 at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, where I worked on the VLT-FLAMES Tarantula Survey with Chris Evans.


I am generally interested in the internal kinematics and dynamics of star clusters, with a particular focus on old globular clusters. My group uses a mix kinematic data, dynamical models, and statistical techniques to probe the formation and evolution of these systems, the black holes they contain, and their stellar content. Through my earlier work on the dynamics of young massive clusters I have also maintained an interest in massive stars and binaries.

Dynamical modelling of globular clusters

Some of my group's recent work has focused on using dynamical models to tackle questions about the dark side of globlular clusters. With models that capture the trend towards equipartition of different mass species and the resulting mass segregation in globular clusters that are dynamically evolved due to two-body relaxation, we can infer the mass distribution within clusters (e.g. Hénault-Brunet et al. 2019), their global (initial) stellar mass function (e.g. Baumgardt, VHB, et al. 2023 , Dickson, VHB, et al. 2023), their content of dark stellar remnants, including stellar-mass black holes (e.g. Hénault-Brunet et al. 2020, Dickson, Smith, VHB, et al. 2024), and also to address claims for the presence of intermediate-mass black holes in the centre of globular clusters. I am also interested in how data from upcoming and future instruments/facilities can further shed light on globular clusters and their interaction with the Milky Way. I recently led the Near-Field Cosmology Science Working Group for the Phase 0 study of the proposed Canadian-led CASTOR mission.

Multiple populations in globular clusters

I have also worked on the problem of multiple stellar populations in globular clusters. The origin of chemically distinct populations of stars in these ancient systems is still mysterious and heavily debated. My efforts have focused on exploring and highlighting the potential of stellar kinematics to probe the formation of multiple populations. In Hénault-Brunet et al. (2015), we performed N-body simulations and identified the differential rotation of subpopulations as a key signature to distinguish between the various formation scenarios proposed. I have also worked on testing these predictions with a combination of new and archival data (e.g. Cordero, Hénault-Brunet et al. 2017).

Kinematics of young massive clusters

During my PhD, I used multi-object and IFU spectroscopic observations to study the kinematics of massive stars in the well-known young massive clusters R136. This work showed that this cluster has a low velocity dispersion, suggesting that it is bound and has not significantly suffered from primordial gas expulsion (Hénault-Brunet et al. 2012b). We also found evidence for rotation of this young cluster, suggesting that star clusters can form with a large fraction of their kinetic energy in rotation (Hénault-Brunet et al. 2012c). This dataset was also successfully used to improve methods to constrain the velocity dispersion of systems in which radial velocity measurements are polluted by the orbital motions of binary stars (Cottaar & Hénault-Brunet 2014).

Massive stars and binaries

I have worked on specific massive star systems over the years, e.g. the Be X-ray binary SXP 1062 and its associated supernova remnant (Hénault-Brunet et al. 2012a); the variable Wolf-Rayet tar WR46 (Hénault-Brunet et al. 2011). I have also been part of the VLT-FLAMES Tarantula Survey (PI: C.J. Evans) and companion Tarantula Massive Binary Monitoring (TMBM) programme (PI: H. Sana), from which we recently reported evidence for two distinct populations of massive runaways stars in 30 Doradus (Sana et al. 2022).


You would like to work with us? Do not hesitate to contact me to learn about research opportunities in the star clusters research group at Saint Mary's University.

Current group members:
* Nolan Dickson (PhD student, MSc 2022)
* Peter Smith (MSc student, BSc Honours 2022)
* Abigail Battson (MSc student, BSc Honours 2023)
* Noha Hoque (undergraduate summer research assistant)

Group alumni:
* Maigan Devries (MSc 2023)
* Tashveena Surdha (BSc Honours 2021)
* Rebecca Hamel (undergraduate summer research assistant 2022)
* Joyo Smit (undergraduate summer research assistant 2022)
* Katherine Myers (undergraduate research assistant 2021-2022)
* Tasha Clowater (undergraduate summer research assistant 2021)
* Devin Williams (undergraduate research assistant 2020-2021)
* Remy Arsenault (undergraduate summer research assistant 2020)


Dr. Vincent Hénault-Brunet
vincent.henault [at] smu.ca
Department of Astronomy & Physics
Saint Mary's University
923 Robie Street
Halifax, NS, B3H 3C3