Nottingham Astronomy Rolling Grant 2008 - 2013

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Physics & Astronomy

Abstract

The Astronomy Group in the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Nottingham specializes in studying the formation and evolution of galaxies. These gravitationally-bound collections of stars, gas, dust and dark matter are some of the most beautiful objects in the Universe, and a major theme in modern astronomy involves trying to understand how they came into existence. One of the tools that we use to try and answer this question involves studying nearby galaxies. Their relative closeness means that we can examine them in great detail, to search for archaeological clues as to how they were made. Galaxies have very long 'memories,' so information imprinted when they formed is likely to have left traces even today. One particularly useful tool in this regard involves using spectroscopy to study the motions of stars in galaxies. Not only are the stars' motions an important part of any complete description of a galaxy, but also since these motions are dictated by the gravitational pull of all the mass of the system, we can use the orbital motions to learn about the distribution of the dark matter that usually dominates galaxies' masses. Spectroscopy also allows us to study the kinds of stars that make up different parts of a galaxy, from which we can infer when and where stars formed within these systems. One complicating factor arises from the 'dust' that permeates many galaxies, obscuring our view. By studying galaxies at far-infrared wavelengths, we can see the emission from this cool material, telling us where it is to be found and how it relates to the other components that make up galaxies. We are therefore engaged in a range of programmes to study the properties of nearby galaxies based both on the spatial distribution of their emission at all wavelengths to learn about their visible components and on the detailed properties of their spectra from which we infer their star formation histories, dynamics and dark matter properties. A second powerful tool involves studying galaxies at large distances from us. Due to the finite speed of light, such observations allow us to see galaxies as they were in the past, and by pushing this technique to ever greater distances we can now directly study galaxies through 90% of the age of the Universe. One of the challenges of this approach is that distant galaxies appear small and faint, but ever larger telescopes and new instrumentation mean that many of the techniques described above for studying nearby galaxies can now be applied to studying these distant systems. Another issue is that many of these distant galaxies are quite rare, so it is only by undertaking the kind of large systematic searches that we are engaged in that we can quantify their properties. One final complication is that the light from distant galaxies appears redshifted, so, for example, the far-infrared emission from dust is observed in the sub-millimetre part of the spectrum. We therefore have to employ a range of different observations to study the same phenomena in galaxies at different distances. Finally, we are involved in studying the environment in which different types of galaxies are located. The properties of galaxies are found to vary dramatically depending on such factors as the number of neighbours around them, but the details of how these differences occur remain to be quantified. Again, we are exploiting a range of techniques involving large surveys to study the distribution of galaxies on the largest scales, and detailed studies of smaller representative slices of the Universe to understand the processes that dictate galaxy type. The tools we use involve observations all across the spectrum to study both the galaxies and their environment, and full high-performance computer simulations that seek to reproduce the properties of the Universe all the way from the large-scale environment down to the formation of individual galaxies.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This research advanced understanding in the modelling of stellar kinematics in galaxies, using integral field spectroscopy, planetary nebula kinematics, and in developing new techniques such as the radial Tremaine Weinberg method for measuring the speeds at which patterns rotate in galaxies.
Exploitation Route They could read the papers I have written, and develop research programmes based on the results.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description This grant funded my research, which led to a spin-out company (Crystal Nebulae) and helped set the scene for a range of outreach initiatives, including the highly-successful Sixty Symbols YouTube channel.
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description FP7-Cosmocomp
Amount £254,656 (GBP)
Funding ID 238356 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 11/2009 
End 03/2013
 
Description FP7-Elubsys
Amount £43,817 (GBP)
Funding ID 233651 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2010 
End 05/2012
 
Description PATT Linked Travel Grant
Amount £28,633 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2010 
End 03/2012
 
Description PATT Linked Travel Grant
Amount £21,824 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2008 
End 03/2010
 
Description QNRF National Priorities Research Program
Amount £216,083 (GBP)
Organisation Qatar Foundation 
Department Qatar National Research Fund
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Qatar
Start 04/2010 
End 03/2013
 
Description STFC Advanced Fellowship
Amount £433,963 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 09/2015
 
Description STFC Advanced Fellowship
Amount £431,646 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2008 
End 10/2013
 
Description STFC Science in Society Large Programme (Video Call)
Amount £72,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2010 
End 12/2011
 
Description STFC grants
Amount £1,839,366 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2011 
End 03/2015
 
Description iHPC studentship
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Nottingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2011 
End 01/2014
 
Description Casteels 
Organisation University of Barcelona
Department Faculty of Physics
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Hosted and supervised postgraduate student for three month visit.
Collaborator Contribution Postgraduate student visit to Nottingham
Impact Work underway.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Cosmocomp 
Organisation Durham University
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Developed cooling and routines for Eagle project.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative projects initiated and progressed via regular meetings.
Impact Published papers in peer reviewd journals.
Start Year 2010
 
Description DES - Dark Energy Survey 
Organisation Dark Energy Survey (DES)
Country Global 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Survey Design Design, planninning and development of spectroscopic follow-up
Collaborator Contribution Access to front-line international observing facilities and research.
Impact Collaboratin recently started
Start Year 2009
 
Description ELUBSYS 
Organisation Rolls Royce Group Plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of models for engine lunbrication system, particularly two phase oil/air interaction using SPH.
Impact Ph.D. thesis, Steve Hopton.University of Nottingham, 2009.
Start Year 2009
 
Description GAMA 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Co-PI, research, observing.
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration of researchers at a large number of international institutions, led by PI Simon Driver at St. Andrews.
Impact Journal papers Public database of galaxy redshifts and photometry
Start Year 2007
 
Description GOODS NICMOS Survey 
Organisation University of Texas
Department Department of Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Leading project
Collaborator Contribution collaborate
Impact Submitted paper to the Astrophysical Journal
Start Year 2007
 
Description MegaMorph 
Organisation Carnegie Mellon University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Designed project, wrote grant proposal, recruited staff, performed research, presented results
Collaborator Contribution Scientific collaboration
Impact Conference proceedings. Development of novel techniques for galaxy structural decomposition.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Peas 
Organisation National Taiwan University
Department Department of Earth Sciences
Country Taiwan, Province of China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborated on project design, telescope proposal, observing. Data reduction, analysis, authorship.
Collaborator Contribution Co-observer, research collaboration.
Impact Conference proceeding, papers in preparation. Follow-up telescope proposals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Zooniverse 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative research in astronomy and various other fields. Administration and management of the project.
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration of a large number of international institutions, with PI Chris Lintott based at Oxford. Collaborative research.
Impact Journal papers. Software framework for online Citizen Science. Effective public outreach with hundreds of thousands of people for a diverse range of academic fields.
Start Year 2007
 
Title New techniques in modelling fluid flows 
Description Drawing on the smooth-particle hydrodynamics work done in the context of gas dynamical cosmological simulations, we have been collaborating with engineers on the modeling of everything from flood defences to jet engines. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact Collaborations with industry and between astronomers and engineers.
 
Description BBC Radio Nottingham Astronomy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Monthly "What's on in astronomy" hour-long slot on BBC Radio Nottingham Afternoon Show.

Audience phoning in with questions, showing enhanced interest in astronomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010
 
Description Many talks to astronomical societies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talks at astronomical societies from Surrey to Shetland, carried out by many members of staff, reaching an audience well into the thousands.

We keep getting invited back to give more talks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010
 
Description Many talks to schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We give many talks to schools, everywhere from local comprehensives in Nottingham to private schools in Malaysia, reaching an audience of many thousands.

Very positive feedback received from teachers; we keep getting asked back to give more talks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010
 
Description Nottingham Astronomy Public Lecture Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Monthly public lecture by members of the astronomy group, average attendance ~100.

Ongoing popularity of series and loyal audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010
 
Description Sixty Symbols Videos 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Series of videos describing physics and astronomy, to which we have contributed extensively. Video viewing now well into the millions.

Very positive feedback received. Lots of cases of respondents being inspired to study science at university, get more involved in the subject, etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010
 
Description Space Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 300 students visited the Nottingham University Arts Centre over the course of 5 days for hands-on activities related to space science and art. Approximately 20 members of the astronomy group volunteered to organize the event and work with the children.

Unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Stars on Screen: Public Astronomy Film Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We organized a public film series of popular, astronomy-related movies in the broadway cinema in Nottingham. The format included short scientific introductions by several members of the department and open time for questions afterwards to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) and inform the public about both research done in Nottingham and the current status of science.

Unknown.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Wollaton Hall Skywatch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Organized by several Astronomical Societies around Nottingham for the IYA. Roughly 10 members of our astronomy group provided short public talks, posters and general information on our ongoing projects.

Unknown.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009