Warwick Astronomy and Astrophysics Rolling Grant 2011-2016

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The Universe is constantly changing. On timescales of millions of years, stars are born, live and die, and in hundreds of millions of years, entire galaxies come into being. At some stages, the lives of stars can be dramatically sped up and we can see changes happening in days, hours or even seconds. The incredible advances in computer technology of the last decades is now allowing astronomers to track such events in large numbers. At one extreme are the distant 'Type Ia' supernovae used to probe perhaps the deepest mystery of modern physics, the dark energy now thought to be driving an increasing rate of Universal expansion, while at the other are surveys that have found hundreds of other worlds around stars a few light-years from Earth. Some of the most rapidly variable objects of all are the dense remnants left at the end of stars' lives (white dwarfs, neutron stars and black-holes). Pairs of such stars orbiting at up to 1000 orbits per second radiate perturbations of the geometry of space called gravitational waves. Experiments are well underway to detect such ripples and provide the first direct tests of Einstein's great tour-de-force, the theory of General Relativity. Type Ia supernovae are bright but rare so although we can see them in the distant Universe, they only very rarely occur near enough to study in detail; we have not seen one in our own Galaxy for over 400 years. Thus, although we know that they are caused by exploding white dwarfs, we don't know precisely what sort of systems produce them. Yet, there must be many potential supernovae in the nearby Universe. We will pursue a program to understand such potential progenitors with the aim of understanding their numbers and evolution. We will employ a combination of discovery from surveys covering large areas of sky followed by detailed study of individual objects in order to understand both their past and future evolution. These are the data needed to test and develop the models of binary star evolution from which we can predict the extent of the evolution of Type Ia supernovae during the history of the Universe, crucial for their use as probes of dark energy. The same models are required to predict the number and properties of gravitational wave sources, essential for the development of the gravitational wave detectors themselves. The most extreme variable sources of all are gamma-ray bursts, staggeringly bright explosions which take us back to the young Universe. Gamma-ray bursts are stellar explosions which allow us to pinpoint galaxies early in their lives. Recent work on gamma-ray bursts by the group has been led to the discovery of the most distant objects ever seen. We will pursue these with an array of observations from large ground- and space-based telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to probe the conditions that lead to the formation of the first stars in the young Universe. Our work in following up gamma-ray bursts may help the search for gravitational waves by narrowing the range of models needed to perform such searches. We now know many more planets (over 400) around other stars than exist within our own solar system. These other worlds have revealed an unexpectedly dynamic past involving planet-planet interactions flinging some planets towards their stars and others out of their reach altogether. All surveys for such systems tend to favour large, massive planets. We will develop a new camera sensitive to smaller planets, comparable to Neptune in the solar system. We will use the same techniques needed to understand binary systems to probe extra-solar planets by looking through their atmospheres to their host stars. We will use the Hubble Space Telescope to measure element abundances of extrasolar planetary material around white dwarfs and use the clock-like precision of white dwarfs in binary systems to detect planetary companions.

Publications

10 25 50
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Alsubai K (2011) Qatar-1b: a hot Jupiter orbiting a metal-rich K dwarf star Qatar-1b: a planet transiting a K dwarf star in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Anderson D (2013) Thermal emission at 3.6-8 µm from WASP-19b: a hot Jupiter without a stratosphere orbiting an active star in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Anderson D (2011) WASP-40b: Independent Discovery of the 0.6  M Jup Transiting Exoplanet HAT-P-27b in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

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Anderson D (2011) WASP-30b: A 61 M Jup BROWN DWARF TRANSITING A V = 12, F8 STAR in The Astrophysical Journal

 
Description There were several major results that emerged as a result of this grant. (1) The high-speed camera ULTRACAM was used in an investigation of what turned out to be the highest mass neutron star known. More than twice as massive as the Sun, the existence of this star alone rules out many possible models of nuclear matter. (2) An outburst in a distant galaxy was discovered that probably came from the tidal destruction of a star; study of such objects is now a major research area. (3) An extremely distant object that exploded when the Universe was just one tenth of its present size was discovered. (4) A major precision study of the masses and radii of accreting white dwarfs was published.
Exploitation Route They are already widely disseminated, and the papers produced by this grant are cited by more than 6000 others as of March 8, 2016.
Sectors Education

 
Description Work on this grant is addressing central issues in the nature of exoplanetary systems, binary stars and cosmic explosions. Over 400 refereed publications came from this project.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Planet evaporation collaboration 
Organisation Paris Institute of Astrophysics
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We work together on a series of space telescope observations of evaporating exoplanets, primarily Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra and XMM-Newton. This has resulted in a series of papers in which we investigate the physical conditions driving planet evaporation. The Warwick contribution has been to lead observations of the X-ray irradiation of the planets, thought to drive planetary evaporation.
Collaborator Contribution Paris and Geneva bring expertise in high precision observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is necessary to detect the resulting mass loss from the exoplanets.
Impact Five papers to date in refereed journals (listed separately) including one on Nature and further observations with Hubble, Chandra and XMM-Newton scheduled.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Planet evaporation collaboration 
Organisation University of Geneva
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We work together on a series of space telescope observations of evaporating exoplanets, primarily Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra and XMM-Newton. This has resulted in a series of papers in which we investigate the physical conditions driving planet evaporation. The Warwick contribution has been to lead observations of the X-ray irradiation of the planets, thought to drive planetary evaporation.
Collaborator Contribution Paris and Geneva bring expertise in high precision observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is necessary to detect the resulting mass loss from the exoplanets.
Impact Five papers to date in refereed journals (listed separately) including one on Nature and further observations with Hubble, Chandra and XMM-Newton scheduled.
Start Year 2011
 
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.
 
Title PAMELA 
Description PAMELA is an astronomical spectrum extraction program of long-standing. However it was modified and released under the STARLINK software suite relatively recently, hence the recent realisation date. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2012 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact PAMELA has been used in hundreds of astronomical research papers. 
 
Description Abingdon Astronomical Society, 2011 
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 / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description East Sussex Astronomical Society, 2011 
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 / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Institute of Physics Lecture, Sussex University, 2012 
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 (mainly school students).

Further requests for talks / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Invited Talks to companies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact General talk on Exoplanet missions to Astrium UK (Airbus) at Stevenage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Leicester Astronomical Society, 2011 
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

Requests for further info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description National Astronomy Meeting 2016 - Schools Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk to School children at the NAM 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description National Astronomy Meeting 2016 Plenary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Plenary at NAM 2015 on exoplanets
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Radio 4: In Our Time Melvin Bragg "Comets" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Asked back to do a further show

many questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pw38n
 
Description Radio 4: In our Time Melvin Bragg "Exoplanets" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked much interest and discussion.

Invited to many other PR events
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03brwql
 
Description Research seminars at multiple UK universities, 2007 on 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited research seminars to astronomy research groups across the UK, including Imperial College, Queen Mary University of London, Leicester, Leeds, Southampton, Warwick, Armagh, UCL, Exeter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011
 
Description Rugby Astronomical Society, 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Further requests for talks / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description STFC PHD Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Subject talk at the 2015 PhD summer school for STFC students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description STFC Summer School for new PhD students, 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk and questions.

Requests for info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Seminars to University Groups 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talks to the following departments:
Warwick 20130921, Leicester 20131211, bristol 20140317, Keele 20140320, Cambridge 20140412 (ESP), Lancaster 20140430, Cambridge 20140612 (IOA), Imperial 20140618, QMUL 20140904, Birmingham 20150114, MSSL 20160421, RAL 20161201
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
 
Description Stargazing Live, Birmingham, 2013 
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 talks / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description University of Warwick Open Days, 2005 on 
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 Schools
Results and Impact Several hundred sixth form students and their parents (and the general public) attend each open day, which is held four times each year. My role is to give talks on our astronomy research and how this informs our undergraduate teaching. Usually these talks are to groups of about 100/day. On on occasion this was a talk to a group of 400.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010
 
Description Walsall Astronomical Society, 2011 
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 / info.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011