Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy and Astrophysics is a research area within which you can focus your studies as part of our suite of Physics and Astronomy research programmes (MPhil, PhD).

The observational programme regularly uses a variety of international telescopes, in particular the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, GEMINI telescope and the UK Infrared Telescope in Hawaii, the La Palma Observatory, the Anglo-Australian Telescope, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Much of our work involves multi-wavelength observations of the Hidden Universe, those regions of the Universe which are invisible with optical telescopes because they are cold and shrouded in dust - the regions where new galaxies, stars and planets are forming.


Administrative contact(s)

Postgraduate Admissions Team

School of Physics and Astronomy

Academic contact(s)

Dr Mattia Negrello

Academic contact

Our principal objectives have to do with Origins: measuring the fluctuations from which the first clusters of galaxies formed; probing the formation, structure and evolution of galaxies, both today and at large look-back times; detecting new forms of matter; determining the relative abundances of the chemical elements in different parts of the Universe; detecting stars and planets in the earliest stages of formation and charting their birth throes.

These observational and instrumental activities are complemented by a strong and diverse theoretical programme which is also aimed at answering Origins questions, such as:

  • what determines the structure and dynamics of the enormous molecular clouds from which new stars and planets form
  • the efficiency of star formation and the masses with which stars form
  • the clustering properties of stars and why most stars are born in binary systems
  • how galaxies form and how galaxies in clusters inter act with one another
  • how, when and where the chemical elements are synthesised
  • how the evolution and appearance of the Universe are affected by dust
  • how the process of galaxy formation relates to cosmology, particularly the large-scale structure of the "cosmic web"

These projects make extensive use of computer modelling and simulations, using national and international supercomputers, as well as powerful in-house parallel machines.

Another major activity is fundamental research in general relativity and gravitational wave astronomy. This includes both the design of gravitational wave telescopes, in particular the processes used to extract and analyse the extremely subtle signals they record; and prediction of the signals to be expected from likely sources such as black holes, supernovae, pulsars, inspiralling and coalescing neutron stars, and quantum processes occurring in the early Universe.

Searching for Cosmic Anomalies

This project will involve developing, testing and applying innovative statistical analysis techniques to real and simulated data sets.

Dust, gas and stars in the big neighbour

You will work on a either a project to investigate how the stars form in Andromeda or a project to investigate the different phases of the interstellar medium in the galaxy.

Data mining at the South Galactic Pole

Automated methods of extracting the properties of millions of galaxies from survey data and identifying new classes of rare objects.

The early phases of cluster formation

The aim of this project is to analyse the IRAM 30-meter data in order to determine the cloud-scale kinematics and quantify these relative to the embedded star formation revealed by the Herschel data.

The dynamical assembly of molecular clouds

The aim of this project is to analyse a survey of CO conducted with the IRAM 30-meter telescope of a sample of young, quiescent MCs to characterise in detail how gas is flowing within dense structures.

Machine learning to maximise the impact of ALMA

Development of new, automated methods for identifying sources in data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

The origin of galaxies and proto-clusters

This project will allow us to find the counterparts for a much larger fraction of the sources thanks to the access we have to a much deeper optical and near-infrared images.

Simulating star formation triggered by cloud/cloud collisions

The aim of this project is to construct realistic clouds, simulate collisions between them.

Automated Searches for Ultra-Diffuse Emission from Stars

We are particularly interested in the fraction of stars that lie outside of easily recognised galactic structures as a means of tracing the assembly history of dark matter haloes of various masses.

Infrared darkness as a tracer of cloud evolution

The student will use Spitzer and Herschel data of the Milky Way to identify and characterise the infrared darkness of all star-forming clouds.

Modelling and interpreting observations of forming stars and galaxies

The student will become expert in radiation transport and the underlying microphysics (emission and absorption processes for dust), and the statistical metrics used to compare observed sources with models and simulations.

Feedback from massive stars and the formation of interstellar bubbles

The student will become expert in interstellar gas dynamics and the associated chemical and stellar dynamics.

Revealing Astronomical and Archaeological Information from Satellite Imaging Data (AA - Reveal)

The proposed project is to look at the further development of the astronomical software and to particularly consider its application to archaeological surveys.

Cosmology from the Cosmic Microwave Background and the low-redshift Universe

This project spans both understanding the data and investigating different cosmological models with ACT and SO observations.

Improved radiative and thermal processes in star-forming gas and dust

You will become expert in radiation transport and the underlying microphysics (emission and absorption processes for gas and dust), as well as learning to perform hydrodynamic simulations.

Studies of supernovae and supernova remnants in the era of JWST

This research project aims at investigating dust, dynamics and elemental abundance of supernovae and supernova remnants in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies.

The role of magnetic fields in the earliest stages of star formation

The aim of this project is to determine the dynamical importance of B fields in the process of cloud evolution/ star formation.

The relationship between star-forming clouds and the star clusters they form

The aim of this project is to develop and refine the statistical distribution of fields of points and continuum maps algorithms.

Inflation science from the next generation Cosmic Microwave Background B-mode surveys

This project will focus on developing analysis strategies to separate the primordial CMB B-mode signal from foreground contaminants and on constraining inflationary models from GW data.

Single crystal analysis of frustrated magnetic systems, using the world's leading powder diffraction instrument

This project would extend the use of WISH to cover robust single crystal analysis of diffuse scattering and weak Bragg peak data with in-situ measurements to extend our fundamental understanding of frustrated magnetic systems.


There are currently no funding opportunities available.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students

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Students from outside the EU

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Programme information

For programme structure, entry requirements and how to apply, visit the Physics and Astronomy programme.

View programme
Meet us at our Information Fair on 22 February 2018.

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