Rolling Grant Programme in Astrophysics, Planetary Science and Space Instrumentation - 2010-2015

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


We propose a world-class programme of research encompassing astrophysics, planetary science and space instrumentation. In high energy astrophysics, we will investigate a range of extreme phenomena including gamma-ray bursts and accreting black holes, primarily through the use of space observatories such as XMM-Newton and Swift combined with multiwaveband follow-up. Our programme also focuses on the astrophysics of dwarf stars, from hot white dwarfs through to brown dwarfs, utilising observational data in the infrared through to the ultraviolet. We will also continue to search for planets in orbit around nearby stars, exploiting the novel sky survey being conducted by WASP. In planetary science we intend to progress our comparative study of auroral processes on Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury using a combination of remote imaging, in situ spacecraft measurements and modelling. A new strand of research aims at characterising the composition of asteroids and comets and also grains entering the solar system from interstellar space. In space instrumentation, we are engaged in ground-breaking research into X-ray interferometry with the eventual goal of providing, for the first time, an ultra-high resolution imaging capability in high energy astrophysics. We will also investigate the potential of a very low-mass X-ray optic for a diverse range of applications including monitoring the whole sky on a daily basis with an unprecedented sensitivity for transient X-ray events and the imaging of Solar Wind Charge Exchange in the Earth's magnetosphere. Finally we also propose to maintain a very strong commitment to knowledge transfer and to public outreach.


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Alston W (2012) Ultraviolet and X-ray variability of NGC 4051 over 45 days with XMM-Newton and Swift in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Amaral-Rogers A (2017) The pulse luminosity function of Swift gamma-ray bursts in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Description We have undertaken an ambitious set of resewaerch projects in astrophysics and space technology. These have led to innovative X-ray optics, including interferometry, and a numnber of astrophysics and planetary science outcomes. These include studies of the most distant objects in the Universe, the characterisation of asteroid samples, the discovery of exoplanets, the characterisation of compact objects (neutron stars, black holes and white dwarfs) and the statistical properties of active galactic nuclei.
Exploitation Route The astrophsyical results will inform future studies. The hardware/technology findings can be used in future space missions.
Sectors Education

Description We have used our research to advance knowledge of astrophysics and space science which has been communicated to the public via outreach activties, including presentations at the National Space Centre, at various schools and through public outreach events including Stargazing live. Technology work has been carried out on X-ray optics which has led to designs for international space missions utlising low-cost and light-weight optical modules.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal

Title qsoft - ray tracing and simulation software for X-ray optics and X-ray telescopes 
Description qsoft is a comprehensive suite of routines for the simulation of X-ray optics and X-ray telescopes. The routines can be accessed using the scripting languages R and/or Python. The routines are written in Fortran 77 and C and the source is self contained and requires no external packages or libraries. The source is available from GitHub. A fortran compiler (gfortran preferred) and R and/or Python with module f2py are required to build the libraries. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This software has been used for the design and analysis of a number of existing X-ray telescopes: Rosat WFC, XMM-Newton, Swift, SVOM MXT. It is currently in use for the design of up coming instruments: ESA Theseus, NASA TAO, Chinese Einstein Probe. 
Description Numerous public talks and schools visits 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Too numerous to list

Inspiration of young and old audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012,2013
Description UCAS recruitment day University of Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The aim is to give prospective undergraduate students a selection of the types of subjects they will study in the University of Leicester College of Science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
Description Various school visits, astronomical society lectures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Many presentations, 100s of students, excellent questions and discussion. Audience figures are totals for activities during each year.

Improvements in interest in applying for science degrees
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018