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.
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.