Astronomy and Astrophysics

Stars forming

Our research involves finding the answers to many fundamental questions in astronomy and cosmology, including the origin questions, using a mixture of observations and theory, including numerical simulations.

We work closely with the Astronomy Instrumentation Group, using some of the innovative instruments that they build. We also work closely with the Gravitational Wave Group, searching for electromagnetic radiation from the sources detected by their gravitational-wave telescopes.

Some of the main questions we are trying to answer are:

  • How are stars formed?
  • How were galaxies formed and how did they evolve after they formed?
  • How are planetary systems formed?
  • What are the properties of the constituents of the universe, in particular the dark matter, dark energy and neutrinos?
  • How did the universe begin?
  • What are the properties of the supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies, how were they formed, and how do they affect the galaxies they live in?
  • Where was all the cosmic dust that shrouds our universe formed?
  • What is the origin of the heavy elements?
  • Where are the places in the Solar System suitable for the origin of life?

Research units

Our research activity is organised into a number of research units:

Andromeda Galaxy

Galaxies and Observational Cosmology

Galaxies are large assemblies of stars, ranging in size from tiny dwarf galaxies, containing only a few thousand stars, to the giant ellipticals found at the centres of clusters, which contain a thousand billion stars.

The forming of a star, as pictured from the Herschel-SPIRE instrument.

Star and Planet Formation

Understanding how stars and planets form is one of the most exciting challenges in astronomy, and one in which we are heavily involved in.