Warwick Astronomy and Astrophysics Rolling Grant 2008-2013

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

In this research programme we will map the complex pathways that culminate in the most violent events in the Universe, supernovae and gamma-ray bursts, and study the effects that stars have on their planetary systems. Although the stars we see in the sky never seem to change, in reality the Universe is constantly evolving. In some cases we can see this happening before our very eyes, most dramatically in the huge explosions astronomers know as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts during which entire stars are torn apart within seconds. Many of these events can only originate within tight pairs of stars known as binary stars. One of the most remarkable recent discoveries of physics, the 'dark energy' which is thought to be driving the expansion rate of the Universe to accelerate, is based upon the observation of precisely such objects. A full understanding of the numbers and properties of such stars can only come if we understand the processes which drive binary evolution. We will carry out a programme of observation and analysis of objects found through large area surveys of the sky. Many of the systems that we look at are predicted to be good emitters of 'gravitational radiation', tiny ripples in the fabric of space that travel at the speed of light and may be detected directly at Earth within the next 15 years, giving us a direct insight into the nature of gravity. The work we plan will help to establish the numbers and properties of the potential binary emitters of gravitational waves. The most extreme systems of all, the gamma-ray bursts, are probes of the young Universe as they are so bright that they can be seen anywhere in the Universe. However they are also rare, and so cannot be seen close at hand, leaving their origins mysterious. We will carry out a dual study to determine the nature of the progenitor stars of gamma-ray bursts and to probe the conditions that lead to the formation of the first stars in the young Universe. Over the past decade some 200 planetary systems have been discovered outside our solar system. A big surprise of this work was the discovery of Jupiter-like planets orbiting very close to their host stars. Some are so close that they may even evaporate. In this programme we will study the effect of the host stars upon their planets, where conditions are in many ways similar to those of close binary stars. We will also study the nature and origin of disks of planetary material that have recently been detected around the old dense stars known as white dwarfs. White dwarfs are the final state of most stars, and our aim is to understand how, and in what form, planetary systems can survive the life-cycle of their host stars.

Publications

10 25 50
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Abazajian K (2009) THE SEVENTH DATA RELEASE OF THE SLOAN DIGITAL SKY SURVEY in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

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Adelman-McCarthy J (2008) The Sixth Data Release of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

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Anderson D (2008) WASP-5b: a dense, very hot Jupiter transiting a 12th-mag Southern-hemisphere star in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

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Anzolin G (2008) Two new intermediate polars with a soft X-ray component in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Armstrong D. (2013) Placing limits on the transit timing variations of circumbinary exoplanets in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Armstrong D. (2012) A transiting companion to the eclipsing binary KIC002856960 in Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Armstrong David (2014) Detecting Circumbinary Exoplanets: Understanding Transit Timing in Exploring the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems

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Barros S (2010) WASP-38b: a transiting exoplanet in an eccentric, 6.87d period orbit in Astronomy & Astrophysics

 
Description This grant delivered progress on a numbers of fronts. Highlights include: (1) a study of the shortest period eclipsing system (at the time), which eclipses every 28 minutes. This system is composed of two white dwarfs and is of interest as a potential future supernova; (2) the discovery of oxygen-rich white dwarfs that might have been remnants of the most massive stars able to become white dwarfs, marking an important boundary in stellar evolution; (3) a breakthrough precision mass / radius measurement of a white dwarf using combined UK and European telescopes; (4) the final proof that a 5.4-minute variation in a star called HM Cancri is in fact an orbital period, the shortest known. This makes the system a strong gravitational wave source.
Exploitation Route The research from this grant has been cited more than 12,000 times by others and is still being followed up and pursued today.
Sectors Other

 
Description The work for this grant on the exoplanet area is what led ultimately to the NGTS transit survey project. This project uses CCDs supplied by Andor Technology.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description ERC Advanced Grant
Amount € 2,285,977 (EUR)
Funding ID WDTRACER 320964 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2018
 
Description WASP Consortium 
Organisation Keele University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WASP project searches for exoplanets around bright stars using the transit technique. Warwick hosts the WASP Data Centre, where data from telescopes in South Africa and La Palma are analysed. We play a leading role in the discovery and characterisation of planets discovered with WASP.
Collaborator Contribution Keele leads the operations and data reduction for the facility in South Africa. St Andews led development of the WASP data reduction pipeline. Leicester originally hosted the WASP Data Centre and purchased much of the computing equipment. Queen's Belfast led the development of the instrument design (although the Belfast PI Pollacco has since moved to Warwick). Geneva have contributed telescope time for confirmation of exoplanets. The Open University contributed CCD cameras and has led some WASP follow up observations.
Impact WASP is the world-leading project for the discovery of giant transiting exoplanets. It has resulted in the publication hundreds of refereed journal articles, listed separately.
 
Description WASP Consortium 
Organisation Open University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WASP project searches for exoplanets around bright stars using the transit technique. Warwick hosts the WASP Data Centre, where data from telescopes in South Africa and La Palma are analysed. We play a leading role in the discovery and characterisation of planets discovered with WASP.
Collaborator Contribution Keele leads the operations and data reduction for the facility in South Africa. St Andews led development of the WASP data reduction pipeline. Leicester originally hosted the WASP Data Centre and purchased much of the computing equipment. Queen's Belfast led the development of the instrument design (although the Belfast PI Pollacco has since moved to Warwick). Geneva have contributed telescope time for confirmation of exoplanets. The Open University contributed CCD cameras and has led some WASP follow up observations.
Impact WASP is the world-leading project for the discovery of giant transiting exoplanets. It has resulted in the publication hundreds of refereed journal articles, listed separately.
 
Description WASP Consortium 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WASP project searches for exoplanets around bright stars using the transit technique. Warwick hosts the WASP Data Centre, where data from telescopes in South Africa and La Palma are analysed. We play a leading role in the discovery and characterisation of planets discovered with WASP.
Collaborator Contribution Keele leads the operations and data reduction for the facility in South Africa. St Andews led development of the WASP data reduction pipeline. Leicester originally hosted the WASP Data Centre and purchased much of the computing equipment. Queen's Belfast led the development of the instrument design (although the Belfast PI Pollacco has since moved to Warwick). Geneva have contributed telescope time for confirmation of exoplanets. The Open University contributed CCD cameras and has led some WASP follow up observations.
Impact WASP is the world-leading project for the discovery of giant transiting exoplanets. It has resulted in the publication hundreds of refereed journal articles, listed separately.
 
Description WASP Consortium 
Organisation University of Geneva
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WASP project searches for exoplanets around bright stars using the transit technique. Warwick hosts the WASP Data Centre, where data from telescopes in South Africa and La Palma are analysed. We play a leading role in the discovery and characterisation of planets discovered with WASP.
Collaborator Contribution Keele leads the operations and data reduction for the facility in South Africa. St Andews led development of the WASP data reduction pipeline. Leicester originally hosted the WASP Data Centre and purchased much of the computing equipment. Queen's Belfast led the development of the instrument design (although the Belfast PI Pollacco has since moved to Warwick). Geneva have contributed telescope time for confirmation of exoplanets. The Open University contributed CCD cameras and has led some WASP follow up observations.
Impact WASP is the world-leading project for the discovery of giant transiting exoplanets. It has resulted in the publication hundreds of refereed journal articles, listed separately.
 
Description WASP Consortium 
Organisation University of Leicester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WASP project searches for exoplanets around bright stars using the transit technique. Warwick hosts the WASP Data Centre, where data from telescopes in South Africa and La Palma are analysed. We play a leading role in the discovery and characterisation of planets discovered with WASP.
Collaborator Contribution Keele leads the operations and data reduction for the facility in South Africa. St Andews led development of the WASP data reduction pipeline. Leicester originally hosted the WASP Data Centre and purchased much of the computing equipment. Queen's Belfast led the development of the instrument design (although the Belfast PI Pollacco has since moved to Warwick). Geneva have contributed telescope time for confirmation of exoplanets. The Open University contributed CCD cameras and has led some WASP follow up observations.
Impact WASP is the world-leading project for the discovery of giant transiting exoplanets. It has resulted in the publication hundreds of refereed journal articles, listed separately.
 
Description WASP Consortium 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The WASP project searches for exoplanets around bright stars using the transit technique. Warwick hosts the WASP Data Centre, where data from telescopes in South Africa and La Palma are analysed. We play a leading role in the discovery and characterisation of planets discovered with WASP.
Collaborator Contribution Keele leads the operations and data reduction for the facility in South Africa. St Andews led development of the WASP data reduction pipeline. Leicester originally hosted the WASP Data Centre and purchased much of the computing equipment. Queen's Belfast led the development of the instrument design (although the Belfast PI Pollacco has since moved to Warwick). Geneva have contributed telescope time for confirmation of exoplanets. The Open University contributed CCD cameras and has led some WASP follow up observations.
Impact WASP is the world-leading project for the discovery of giant transiting exoplanets. It has resulted in the publication hundreds of refereed journal articles, listed separately.
 
Description AshLawn School 2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk on how to observe the night sky. Children and parents brought their telescopes. I gave a talk and then we went outside to use them.

Quote from an emial received afterwards:

"Good Afternoon Tom,

Many thanks again for coming to do our stargazing evening, the feedback from the students and their parents was great and they we asking if it was on next week!

I've sent an article and photo to the Rugby Advertiser and an entry in our school newsletter, if you'd like a copy please let me know an address to sent it to.

I hope you thought it went well too, and would consider coming to Ashlawn again.

Kind regards and much appreciation"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Astronomical society talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stimulated questions on white dwarf and gravitational waves

Follow up requests for talks from the group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description British Astronomical Association Variable Star Section, 2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk and discussion.

Further requests for talks / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Bruker Warwick Christmas Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Bruker Warwick Christmas Lecture was based on "The Biggest Bangs" and described gamma-ray bursts and supernovae, and how they make the elements. It took place in the Warwick Arts Centre theatre and was attended by 411 people. It included numerous (sometimes explosive) demonstrations. Feedback was extremely positive in changing perceptions of science, and numerous invitations for further involvement with schools have been had.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.astro.warwick.ac.uk/biggestbangs
 
Description Federation of Astronomical Societies Annual Convention, 2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk and questions.

Further requests for talks / information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Heart of England Astronomical Society, 2008 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk and discussion.

Further requests for talks / information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Institute of Physics Lecture, 2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk and questions

Further requests for more info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Oxford Space and Astronomical Society, 2008 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk and discussion.

Invitations for additional talks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Primary Space Camps - Schools in Leamington Spa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Space camps include question and answer sessions with professional astronomers, as well as some formal talks. Andrew Levan has given several of these talks to schools in Leamington in the past three years, in addition to trips from our planetarium.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
 
Description Stargazing live, 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk, followed by telescope sessions for children and parents associated with BBC Stargazing live event, Jan 2011

Here is an e-mail associated with this event:

To everyone involved with Saturday night a big thank you for helping
put on such a great show. The school estimated around 350 people attended.
Yes, threee hundred and fifty.
Special thanks to Tom Marsh, Johanna Jarvis and Mike Frost for their talks.
The comments below which I have received sum it up far better.

(Incidentally the school have found one red head lamp and a couple of 'Astronomy Now' binders if anyone has
lost these items.)

Julian.
Wow, what a fabulous night. Congratulations to you all on a brilliantly set up evening of ridiculously interesting information.!!
Thank you for a realy entertaining evening at ashlaw school,it was very informative and i realy enjoyed myself.

I just wanted to send you a quick follow up email to say a huge thank you to you and everyone else that was involved at last nights Star Gazing event.
My six year old daughter had a great time (even given the cold weather!) and I'm sure this will be the start of something newI managed to get some photographs of some of the night sky, but it has given us the inspiration to try even more.
I've now bookmarked your website and may well pop along to some of your future events/meetings.
Please pass on our thanks to all involved in the excellent Stargazing evening, inspiring speakers, generous and patient telescope owners and the tireless hosts of Ashlawn School. We hope to come to the first meeting of the society later this month.

I just wanted to say thank you for the event on Saturday. We really enjoyed it
and thought it was extremely well organised and interesting. I wasn't sure what
we were going to do for 3 hours, but the talks were great and it was amazing to
look through all the telescopes. And the hot drinks really helped fend off the
cold...

Thanks!

Many thanks for the ashlawn eve, the boys and I really enjoyed it.

The telescopes were great and we spoke to some very knowledgeable, enthusiastic people.

We heard the first 2 speakers and especially enjoyed the lady. She was easy to listen to and I kept pace with most of the distances she mentioned! The boys (10 yrs) especially enjoyed the pics she had and the light ropes.

They loved seeing the intl space station.

Thanks to tea coffee ladies too.

Thanks again
Just a thank you to you and everyone involved in making the stargazing night last night, such a great evening for all that attended. We were so lucky to have a clear night and for me to see the bands and moons of Jupiter, the Pleiades and most of all the Orion Nebula was just amazing. I have even been out tonight looking through my binoculars. Please pass on our thanks to everyone, especially to the guys who brought their telescopes for us to look through and who braved the cold weather for so long.

Many thanks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011