Astrophysics at Queen's University Belfast: 2008 - 2013

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics


We propose a co-ordinated programme of observational and theoretical astrophysics, involving the study of astronomical sources ranging from the Sun to supernovae in distant galaxies. Major Themes which will be covered by our Rolling Grant programme include: solar physics, in particular the use of high-cadence imaging to study activity and variability in the solar atmosphere and how these affect energy transport; the investigation of solar system bodies, including comets and asteroids and in particular Near-Earth Objects, which may represent an impact hazard to the Earth; astrochemistry, specifically the development of theoretical models of star formation regions and circumstellar discs, including those which may form planets; studies of hot stars, both young massive OB-type objects and those at an evolved stage of evolution, such as post-Asymptotic Giant Branch stars; the discovery and characterisation of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun (exoplanets), including possible Earth-sized objects; studies of supernovae and their progenitor stars, and how they influence galaxy evolution through dust production and chemical enrichment.


10 25 50
Description Advances in understanding how the solar atmosphere is heated, discovery of exoplanets, supernovae and solar system bodies such as asteroids.
Exploitation Route Astrophysics is a constantly evolving topic, with all work (in particular published work) being taken forward by researchers both within and outside the research team that undertook the original work.
Sectors Education

Description Publications in journals have been cited by other researchers who have then themselves undertaken further work in the research field (as indeed have the authors of the original publications).
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural

Description STFC Astronomy Grants
Amount £1,674,429 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/L000709/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 03/2017
Description Annual in-house activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Astronomy lectures and presentations are given at the following annual events: (i) QUB Horizons in Physics} (which attracts around 400 4th- and 5th-form students per year), (ii) Physics Open Days (around 200 6th-form students), (iii) Physics Teachers Conference (about 50 Physics teachers from schools in Ireland).

Increased take-up of Physics and Astronomy degree programme over last 3 years.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2014
Description Links with W5 Discovery Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact An ongoing partnership with the W5 Discovery Centre in Belfast (Ireland's award-winning science and discovery centre). We developed the Planet Quest exhibition, based on explaining the multi-wavelength nature of modern astronomy. This includes spectacular infrared images from telescopes and satellites, information stands on the nature of infrared radiation, and hands on activities for children. It showcases high-profile Queen's astrophysics research to illustrate to the public that world-leading, technology-driven research is happening in Belfast. The exhibition initially ran March - September 2012, attracting 10,000 visitors, and we hope to run it again during the period 2014 - 2017. Astrophysics staff also host talks, Q&A sessions and hands-on building games in W5 (aimed at Key Stage 3 pupils), and further support W5 through the creation of astronomy CPD materials and a centralised web resource for secondary school physics teachers.

Increased interest in astronomy and science from schoolchildren.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013
Description Michael West lectures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have initiated a series of high-profile public lectures, The Michael West Lecture Series in Astronomy, following a philanthropic donation from Dr West which funds a Fellowship with a major outreach and education component. These lectures, which are scheduled typically twice per year, each attract 200 people, and are now the most widely attended public lecture series at Queen's University and indeed in Ireland as a whole.

Increased requests for e.g. school talks. Media interviews.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
Description School visits 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact All members of the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) at Queen's University are involved in schools talks, covering their research topics as well as more general interests in astronomy. Most are at secondary level but also at primary (we actively take part in STEPS), either in the classroom or at Queen's. ARC staff deliver a total of about 40 talks/year to pupils, with typical class sizes of 25.

Hard to assess, but in Northern Ireland uptake of Physics at university level has increased steadily in recent years, in contrast to the UK trend.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014