Queen's University Belfast Consolidated Grant 2014 - 2017

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

Abstract

Our Consolidated Grant brings together research projects in astrophysics within the Astrophysics Research Centre, and atomic physics calculations within the Centre for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, plus collaborative work between the two Centres, in a programme which covers all of the AGP-funded activities within the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast. The programme is diverse, involving observational and theoretical studies of astrophysical sources ranging from the Sun to solar system bodies (asteroids and comets), planets orbiting stars other than the Sun (exoplanets), interstellar clouds of gas where stars are forming, and exploding stars in distant galaxies (supernovae). It also includes the calculation of data for atomic processes in very complex ions, such as singly ionized iron (Fe II), and the application of these results to a range of astronomical objects, such as highly active, intrinsically bright galaxies called quasars, which are at extremely large distances and hence observed when the Universe was very young.

Planned Impact

1. Public engagement

We have a wide-ranging, vibrant and extremely popular portfolio of astrophysics outreach activities that have a major impact on society and (in particular) schoolchildren. Many of our research areas - including the study of exploding stars, asteroids that could hit the Earth, the search for Earth-like planets, and observations of the dynamic Sun - provide exciting and appealing science topics of great interest to the public. Our outreach programmes, which will be ongoing over the period of the Consolidated Grant, inspire and enthuse both the public and schoolchildren throughout Ireland and this region of the UK, and include:

- An ongoing partnership with the W5 Discovery Centre in Belfast. We developed the Planet Quest exhibition, 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.

- We host, support and sponsor bi-monthly meetings of the Irish Astronomical Society at QUB which attract round 80 attendees. ARC staff regularly give lectures and also use our influence (and resources) to bring in speakers from Europe.

- We have initiated a series of high-profile public lectures (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 (typically 2/year) each attract 200 people, and are now the most widely attended public lecture series at QUB and indeed in Ireland as a whole.

- 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/year), (ii) Physics Open Days (around 200 6th-form students), (iii) Physics Teachers Conference (about 50 Physics teachers from schools in Ireland).

- Presentations to schools (40/year), mostly at secondary level but also at primary level, and also to amateur astronomical societies and FE colleges (12/year).

- Collaboration with the School of Education at QUB to deliver projects in astronomy and space science in schools and public libraries (4/year).


2. Knowledge exchange engagement

We have two programmes in Knowledge Exchange with links to the present application, outlined below.

2.1 Detector development

The detectors in our ROSA solar imager have been developed by ANDOR Technology PLC, a world leader in scientific imaging and spectroscopy. We are working with ANDOR on their CMOS camera technology, through e.g. field-testing the newly-developed sCMOS camera. This offers the ability to acquire large format data at very fast frame rates with extremely high sensitivity and is already resonating with a broad diversity of scientific applications, including in biophysics. Another collaboration is in the area of large format CCDs, where ANDOR has been identified as one of only two companies worldwide that can provide the cameras for the next generation of ground-based solar telescopes.

2.2 Fusion research

Tokamaks are magnetically-confined plasma devices that have been built for the study and eventual generation of nuclear fusion. Steady-state fusion and commercial energy generation are still a long way off but the eventual benefits will be enormous. UK tokamak programmes are undertaken at the UKAEA Culham Science Centre, the site of JET, which is of particular importance to the next step towards the realisation of a true fusion reactor, namely ITER. Keenan and Ramsbottom have strong engagement with Culham, and are currently developing a spectroscopic diagnostic for the alpha-particle yield during fusion, an extremely important parameter. We also provide our atomic physics calculations to the Atomic Data and Analysis Structure (ADAS) Project, employed by tokamak physicists worldwide to analyse the spectral emission from these devices.

Publications

10 25 50

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Aggarwal K (2015) Energy levels, radiative rates and electron impact excitation rates for transitions in C iii in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Aggarwal K (2016) Radiative rates for E1, E2, M1, and M2 transitions in Br-like ions with 43 = Z = 50 in Atomic Data and Nuclear Data Tables

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Aggarwal K (2015) Electron impact excitation of Be-like ions: a comparison of darc and icft results in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Barbarino C (2015) SN 2012ec: mass of the progenitor from PESSTO follow-up of the photospheric phase in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Title The science in science-fiction films and television programmes 
Description This is a collection of presentations which use clips of science-fiction films and television shows (e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek) to show how science is portrayed in these media, and discusses how accurate (or otherwise) these portrayals are. Presentation includes discussion of our research on exoplanets. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2008 
Impact The presentations were first produced back in 2007 - supported by an STFC Public Understanding of Science (PUS) Small Award - and since then have been regularly updated, and will continue through 2020. They have been delivered to audiences totalling many thousands - probably over 3000 over the last 3 years alone, These include the general public, schools, higher educational institutes, research establishments. 
 
Description Have produced high quality research in several areas, ranging from solar physics to studies of solar system bodies, as witnessed by large number of papers listed in major international journals.
Exploitation Route Many of our papers lead to further publications by ourselves and others in the research fields.
Sectors Education

 
Description The solar physics work is linked to detector development programme with ANDOR Technology, plus a programme with Randox Laboratories. Our research is also used extensively in our outreach programmes for schoolchildren and the public.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Astronomy Research Grants
Amount £1,307,461 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/P000304/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2020
 
Description Royal Society International Exchange Scheme
Amount £12,000 (GBP)
Funding ID IE140343 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2014 
End 06/2017
 
Description STFC Astronomy Grants
Amount £2,371,437 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/P000312/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2020
 
Description UK-India Education and Research Initiative
Amount £48,900 (GBP)
Funding ID UGC -UKIERI -2017/18-014 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Title ADAS 
Description OPEN-ADAS is a system to search and disseminate key data from the Atomic Data and Analysis Structure (ADAS). ADAS is a computer program managed by the University of Strathclyde and made up of a consortium of over twenty members. The OPEN-ADAS system enables non-members, with an interest in fusion and astrophysics, to download and use ADAS data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact All of the atomic data produced by the QUB team relating to fusion research are place in this database for use by modellers in astrophysics and fusion research. 
URL http://open.adas.ac.uk/
 
Title ADAS 
Description OPEN-ADAS is a system to search and disseminate key data from the Atomic Data and Analysis Structure (ADAS). ADAS is a computer program managed by the University of Strathclyde and made up of a consortium of over twenty members. The OPEN-ADAS system enables non-members, with an interest in fusion and astrophysics, to download and use ADAS data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact All of the atomic data produced by the QUB team relating to fusion research are place in this database for use by modellers in astrophysics and fusion research. 
URL http://open.adas.ac.uk/
 
Title CHIANTI 
Description CHIANTI consists of a critically evaluated set of up-to-date atomic data, together with user-friendly programs written in Interactive Data Language (IDL) and Python to calculate the spectra from astrophysical plasmas. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact All of the atomic data created at QUB are stored in the CHIANTI database for use by the astrophysics and plasma physics communities. 
URL http://www.chiantidatabase.org/
 
Title CLOUDY/STOUT 
Description Cloudy is a spectral synthesis code designed to simulate conditions in interstellar matter under a broad range of conditions. It is provided for general use under an open source License. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The modelling code CLOUDY, developed by Ferland (University of Kentucky), is employed by astrophysicists worldwide to analyse the spectra of a myriad of astronomical sources, ranging from gaseous nebulae to high- redshift quasars. An essential component of any plasma modelling code is highly accurate atomic data for a range of processes, including radiative rates and electron-impact excitation cross sections. For most of these atomic processes, experimental results are not widely available, and theoretical data must be employed. 
URL http://www.nublado.org/
 
Title Database of (reduced) data from the ROSA solar imager and instruments on the Swedish Solar Telescope. 
Description Database of reduced solar imaging data from the ROSA imager and Swedish Solar Telescope (including application of image reconstruction software to produce images at the diffraction limit). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Databases for both ROSA and SST data are now well established and accessed by the solar physics community. 
 
Title Database of atomic physics calculations 
Description Atomic physics calculations from the GRASP, CIV3 and RMATRX codes. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Data have been widely used by the community and included in various modelling codes such as CHIANTI and CLOUDY. 
 
Title UDfA 
Description The UMIST Database for Astrochemistry (UDfA) is the world's leading database for the provision of chemical kinetic data for astrochemistry. As well as data, it contains software to manipulate the data and run models for the chemical evolution of interstellar molecular clouds and circumstellar envelopes. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The database is used by many groups from astronomy, atmospheric chemistry and plasma physics. 
URL http://www.udfa.net
 
Description ADAS-EU: 
Organisation University of Strathclyde
Department Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Ramsbottom is an active members of the ADAS-EU consortium. ADAS-EU is a support activity for implementation of atomic data in plasma diagnostics and modelling at fusion laboratories throughout Europe, for management of databases of relevant fundamental and applied data and for promotion of key fundamental atomic data calculation and measurement. It will enable improved effectiveness of analysis of existing fusion experiments and prepare for ITER. Members of this group hail from Universities worldwide, from the USA, UK, Europe and Japan.
Collaborator Contribution As above
Impact Publications
Start Year 2010
 
Description Atomic Physics for Astrophysics 
Organisation Kentucky State University
Department Department of Physics and Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Ramsbottom has established a major collaboration with Prof G Ferland of Kentucky University relating to the use of Fe II emission lines as a chronometer for high red-shift quasars. The high red-shift quasars are the most distant objects we can observe spectroscopically and the emission we observe was produced when the Universe had an age of roughly 1 Gyr. This youth limits and simplifies the amount of nucleosynthesis that can have occurred. This innovative project aims to fully simulate the physical conditions within Fe II emitting gas and predict the resulting spectrum. The numerical simulations will be used to deduce iron abundances from Fe II emission in high-redshift quasars. This, in conjunction with predictions of stellar evolution and galactic nucleosynthesis, will result in a chronometer measuring the redshift when the universe passed through an age of 1 Gyr, thus constraining cosmological parameters and the onset of star formation. For this work to be successful, it is imperative that the Fe II scattering model be as large and as complete as possible. Two PhD students have already been supported by the Prof. James Caldwell travel scholarship (QUB) to visit Auburn University, USA and The University of Kentucky, USA to strengthen and initiate new collaborations with international members of the astrophysical community. The group at QUB is responsible for the atomic data generation for this exciting project.
Collaborator Contribution The contribution made to the project from Kentucky state University is their expertise in the development, use and experience in the CLOUDY modelling code. Our collaborator Prof G. Ferland is the founder of this internationally used modelling code.
Impact Joint publications Prof Ferland spent 10 months at QUB funded by a Leverhulme visiting program
Start Year 2008
 
Description Collaborative agreement for purchase of Swedish Solar Telescope Time 2017 - 2019 
Organisation Stockholm University
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part-funding to purchase time on the Swedish Solar Telescope (SST) for use by the UK solar physics community during calendar years 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Collaborator Contribution UK partners - Armagh Observatory, Sheffield University and Northumbria University - also provided a financial contribution to purchase the SST time. There is also an agreement between Queen's University Belfast and Stockholm University for the purchase of the SST time from the latter.
Impact The agreement covers the provision of time on the SST only; exploitation of this time, and resultant publications etc, are the responsibility of the relevant UK teams who have been allocated time. They will hence report on the outcomes of their SST time awards in their own Researchfish submissions.
Start Year 2016
 
Description The International Iron Project: 
Organisation University of Strathclyde
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Ramsbottom is a member of the International Iron Project and indeed has been a full and active contributor since 2002. This group of collaborators meet at least once per year to discuss issues relating to the production of accurate atomic data for use in plasma and astrophysical applications. Members hail from Universites in the USA (Auburn, Ohio, Rollins Florida, Venezuela)), the UK (QUB, Strathclyde, UCL, Daresbury) and Europe (Munchen Germany, Nice, Observatoire de Paris France). The next meeting is to be held in Paris France in April 2016.
Collaborator Contribution This group of collaborators meet at least once per year to discuss issues relating to the production of accurate atomic data for use in plasma and astrophysical applications.
Impact Joint publications Regular meetings
 
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,
 
Description Jupiter Watch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Attended by over 500 annually.

Increased awareness and appreciation of astronomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2016
 
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 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015
URL https://star.pst.qub.ac.uk/wiki/public/outreach/start
 
Description Presentations on the total solar eclipse in the USA in 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact During our campaign to observe the total solar eclipse in the USA in 2017, we gave talks and demonstrations to audiences at the eclipse site in Idaho. We have also made a video of the eclipse campaign, and plan to develop this into a talk for schools and the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
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,