Durham Astronomy Consolidated Grant 2014-2017

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

By the nature of the questions it addresses, Astronomy attracts the imagination of the public to an extent that only very few other branches of science can match. It is immediately accessible to every human by simply gazing up into the night sky to look at the stars and the Moon. This has provoked questions about the origins of the Earth, stars and our Solar System, as well as the origins of the Universe since the dawn of civilisation.

The past twenty years have seen the emergence of a standard model in Astronomy for the constituents of our Universe, as well as for the origin and evolution of all structure within it. According to this model, we live in a universe where at least two thirds of all mass-energy is now in the form of a dark energy field which is causing the Universe to expand at an ever increasing rate. About a quarter is in dark matter, most probably a new weakly interacting elementary particle yet to be detected on Earth. Only the remaining 5 percent is ordinary, or baryonic, matter of which at the present-day only about a tenth is in stars and the planets such as the Earth and the rest resides mostly as gas in the space between galaxies.

The structures formed by dark and baryonic matter were seeded by quantum fluctuations imprinted in the density field of the Universe at the earliest instants of the Big Bang. These produced weak sound waves in the near-uniform primordial plasma that left observable imprints on the heat left over from the Big Bang, emitted when the Universe was only 400,000 years old. These tiny ripples grew into the full richness of structures we see around us in the Universe today: galaxies, groups, clusters and larger-scale structures. It is this transformation from a near-uniform primordial soup to a cosmic web of structure that is the focus of our proposal.

Our programme knits together cutting-edge theoretical research into the earliest phases of the Universe with theoretical and observational projects to determine the formation and evolution of structure in the Universe and to confront the predictions of our models with our latest observational results, while exploiting instrumentation developments being pursued in Durham. We will focus on the evolution of galaxies back to the earliest times in the Universe and the influence which their environment has had on their properties. We will investigate the formation and evolution of black holes and their role in determining the structure and properties of galaxies and larger scale structures, using the latest instruments on ground-based observatories and Earth-orbiting satellites and theoretical models.

Planned Impact

We are proud of our track record at Durham of public communication. The outreach initiative we started a decade ago has developed into a University-wide activity, which has, in turn, spawned an annual science festival in Durham (the most recent attended by 6,000 people). Our current programme uses a range of activities and techniques to engage with three key groups: a) the general public; b) school children and c) national and international audiences. These activities include science festivals, public lectures, summer schools, master classes and school visits, which together reach 10-15,000 people a year across the region and nationally.

To enhance the impact of our outreach we are developing demonstrations based on the science funded in our programme. These include a "Table Top" demonstrator of the principles of adaptive optics and its application to both astronomy and microscopy. We are also continuing to develop our "Cosmic Universe" application for iPad and iPhone. This free app, which has been downloaded 3,000 times from iTunes, allows the public to interact with the simulations of the Universe undertaken at Durham, providing a striking and effective way to visualise the size and structure of our Universe.

On the international stage we are partners in three ongoing programmes to engage with the wider European population using the science from next-generation projects such as the Cherenkov Telescope Array and the James Webb Space Telescope.

We see several Knowledge Exchange opportunities deriving from our programme. In particular, our development of integral field spectrographs has a range of potential applications for remote sensing and has secured funding from the UKSA for a laboratory demonstrator of a compact hyperspectral imager, which was presented at the STFC Environmental Futures Workshop. Following discussions with the Home Office on exploitation of this technology for home security, we have also obtained CLASP funding for an initial study of potential applications.

We are increasingly transfering our expertise in adaptive optics from Astronomy to life sciences include techniques for selective-plane-illumination spectroscopy of live specimens. We are also investigating the use of adaptive lenses in 3D Displays which has so far led to two patents and a collaboration with Disney Research. Similarly our experience in real-time systems underpins our work on fusion energy, including a Doctoral Training Network and potential future spin-offs for communications and high-speed, non-astronomical adaptive optics.

As well as technological transfer, some of the methodology used in our theoretical and observational work has KE potential. For example, we are developing new approaches for quantifying uncertainties in complex computer models, appropriate for models of climate change or oil extraction. These provide a computationally efficient technique for mapping the behaviour of such models and our work in this field has had significant impact in the statistical community, as well as attracting interest from the Bank of England as it may have application to the modelling of financial markets by regulators.

Finally, our broader research programme supports the research development of a cohort of postgraduate students at Durham, providing them with training in specific and transferable skills. More specifically, our students are given top level training in high performance computing, including parallel programming, handling huge datasets and developing advanced visualization tools. Using these skills our former students have taken jobs in a range of industries and in finance. Similarly, physics undergraduates at Durham benefit through their participation in our research work as part of their 4th year MSci projects. Our technical training of these postgraduates and undergraduate students provides a pool of talented, highly skilled candidates for jobs in the wider UK economy.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The research in our group is focused on studying the origin and evolution of the contents of the Universe. As such our primary societal impact is through developing the general public's appreciation of the complexity and variety of the Universe around them. Our programme of science engagement combined activities from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy and the Institute for Computational Cosmology (between which there are strong links, including a number of joint staff appointments). The impact of our programme is also enhanced considerably by our development of a permanent Public Engagement activity within the Physics department (led by Dr. Pete Edwards). This activity was built up between 2001-2007 using STFC funding we brought in and has subsequently been supported by University and philanthropic donations. Results from our science programme feed into the activities undertaken by our staff and the PE team with both the general public (e.g. the annual Durham Science Festival and our public lecturer series) and through engagement with schools (including using the Ogden Trust Teaching Fellows). We are also developing links with the Kielder Observatory (based in the Dark Skies reserve in the National Forest) to further widen the reach of our outreach activities.
The high-level analysis techniques we develop and use have wider uses. In particular we have expertise in the analysis and visualisation of low signal-to-noise signals in 3-dimensional data and high-volume image analysis (in optical and near-infrared wavebands). We collaborate closely (with several staff holding joint staff appointments) with the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation in Durham in supporting the science cases for the development of cutting-edge instrumentation, in particular novel optical fibre applications to spectroscopy and advanced image stabilisation methods for reducing the impact of atmospheric turbulence. Many of these techniques and capabilities have potential use in Earth observations and other areas and we have an on-going programme to investigate and develop these.
Our programme also supports the skills development of a cohort of postgraduate students and postdoctoral staff in Durham. For the students this includes training in specific and transferable skills. Undergraduate students at Durham also benefit from our research work as part of the 4th year MSci projects, which provide them with an opportunity to experience a research environment typical of that found in industry or academia. We believe that our technical training of undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers provides a pool of talented and highly trained candidates for jobs in the wider UK economy.
Exploitation Route Our results are driving the development of new facilities and these in turn will be used to test our results and lead to new avenues for research, by both ourselves and other international groups.
Sectors Education,Other

URL http://www.astro.dur.ac.uk/
 
Description The research in our group is focused on studying the origin and evolution of the contents of the Universe. As such our primary societal impact is through developing the general public's appreciation of the complexity and variety of the Universe around them. Our programme of science engagement is undertaken jointly with the Institute for Computational Cosmology (with which we have strong links, including a number of joint staff appointments). The impact of our programme is also enhanced considerably by our development of a permanent Public Engagement activity within the Physics department (led by Dr. Pete Edwards). This activity was built up between 2001-2007 using STFC funding we brought in and has subsequently been supported by University and philanthropic donations. Results from our science programme feed into the activities undertaken by our staff and the PE team with both the general public (e.g. the annual Durham Science Festival and our public lecturer series) and through engagement with schools (including using the Ogden Trust Teaching Fellows). We are also developing links with the Kielder Observatory (based in the Dark Skies reserve in the National Forest) to further widen the reach of our outreach activities. The high-level analysis techniques we develop and use have wider uses. In particular we have expertise in the analysis and visualisation of low signal-to-noise signals in 3-dimensional data and high-volume image analysis (in optical and near-infrared wavebands). We collaborate closely (with several staff holding joint staff appointments) with the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation in Durham in supporting the science cases for the development of cutting-edge instrumentation, in particular novel optical fibre applications to spectroscopy and advanced image stabilisation methods for reducing the impact of atmospheric turbulence. Many of these techniques and capabilities have potential use in Earth observations and other areas and we have an on-going programme to investigate and develop these. Our programme also supports the skills development of a cohort of postgraduate students and postdoctoral staff in Durham. For the students this includes training in specific and transferable skills. Undergraduate students at Durham also benefit from our research work as part of the 4th year MSci projects, which provide them with an opportunity to experience a research environment typical of that found in industry or academia. We believe that our technical training of undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers provides a pool of talented and highly trained candidates for jobs in the wider UK economy.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Other
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description 6dF Peculiar Velocity Survey 
Organisation Australian Astronomical Observatory
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Impact First extensive peculiar velocity map of the southern hemisphere
 
Description 6dF Peculiar Velocity Survey 
Organisation International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Impact First extensive peculiar velocity map of the southern hemisphere
 
Description 6dF Peculiar Velocity Survey 
Organisation Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Impact First extensive peculiar velocity map of the southern hemisphere
 
Description 6dF Peculiar Velocity Survey 
Organisation Royal Observatory Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Impact First extensive peculiar velocity map of the southern hemisphere
 
Description 6dF Peculiar Velocity Survey 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Construction of final dataset and various analysis.
Impact First extensive peculiar velocity map of the southern hemisphere
 
Description Details structural analysis of Coma cluster galaxies 
Organisation University of Waterloo
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Actively worked on all aspects.
Collaborator Contribution First paper: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.440.1690H Second paper submitted November 3rd. "Beyond Sersic + exponential disc morphologies ..." Third paper currently being put together.
Impact First paper: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.440.1690H Second paper submitted November 3rd. "Beyond Sersic + exponential disc morphologies ..." Discovery of a wide variety of outer structures including truncated discs and the importance of bars in Coma cluster galaxies.
Start Year 2008
 
Description LEGUS 
Organisation Space Telescope Science Institute
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Providing state of the art modeling of observations.
Collaborator Contribution Data reduction & analysis, interpretation of observations
Impact 7 publications in refereed journals. Outreach activities, including citizen science projects.
Start Year 2013
 
Description 10 Planetarium shows 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Enrichment event including quizzes and interaction for schools and colleges and the general public to learn about our planet system
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description 16 public lectures/talks at primary and secondary schools and astronomical societies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Demonstrated weak lensing, plus talk and EAGLE fly through to six classes of L9 pupils at Ferryhill BEC or STEM activities- rockets and projectile or talks about stellar evolution plus experimental session for secondary school students (and some rather younger) are just a few examples. All of these activities have been received well and sparked interest in Astronomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description BBC radio Newcastle - Prof Tom Theuns 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Prof Tom Theuns was interviewed about research, and about the SciBar (Science in a Bar) event in Newcastle the next day
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Big Bang North West - Festival, Aintree Racecourse, L9 5AS 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stall run by the organisation 'ScienceGrrl'. Event attended by school students of all
ages. Informally chatted with the students about astronomy and they asked lots of
questions. Demonstrated spectroscopes.

Invited back next year. Asked by the STFC to help run their stalls at similar
events/attend astro events at dark sky sites in the North West.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Bishop Aukland Astronomical Society Talk about intergalactic medium by Stephanie Bartle 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Stephanie Bartle gave a public talk to Bishop Aukland Astronomical Society on 10th March 2016. Talk and discussion about intergalactic medium reported an increase in understanding
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://baastro.nstars.org
 
Description Cafe Scientific - the destructive power of black holes by Chris Harrison 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cafe Scientific - the destructive power of black holes Empty Shop - Durham DH1 4SJ 12th March 2016 General public Talk and discussion about black hole research Audience reported increase in understanding
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://community.dur.ac.uk/nat.sci.soc/cafesci/
 
Description Celebrate Science Palace Green, Durham Exhibition  
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Celebrate Science Palace Green, Durham DH1 2016-10-25 Exhibition - We took the Galaxy Makers exhibit from the Royal Society and the Planetarium. Event aimed at the public during half term, so lots of younger children attending several tweets by visitors with pictures of our stand. Comments left on comment boards according to Pete Edwards 30 staff from across physics, inc Mech workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.galaxymakers.org
 
Description Celebrate Science Durham 
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 Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the family science festival Celebrate Science we took three exhibitions. (1)
We ran planetarium shows to talk about the planets and stars; (2) We demonstrated for
STFC's Big Telescopes exhibit and (3) We had an interactive exhibit on dark matter.

Several requests made for more information. Requests by school teachers to take
activities into their schools. Trainee teachers given information to pass on to their
pupils. Several visitors to the telescope exhibition were inspired by the amount of
engineering and wide number of skills/expertise that is required to build telescopes,
hence changed peoples opinions on the applicability of general STEM subjects in
astronomy.
Dates:
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Durham University Schools' Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 'Beyond the Rainbow' spectroscopy demonstration. We gave a short (5 min)
presentation about the nature of light, how we can split it up into its spectrum, how this
is used in astronomy. We then guided the students in making DIY spectroscopes, using
templates from the outreach website.

Invited to take part in schools science festival next year!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description New Eyes on the Universe National Maritime Museum (London) public lecture by Ray Sharples 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact New Eyes on the Universe lecture by Ray Sharpled at National Maritime Museum (London) SE10 9NF 2016-12-12 Public Lecture Public astronomy lecture organised by Flamsteed Astronomical Society http://flamsteed.info/event/new-eyes-on-the-universe-astronomical-technology-for-the-21st-century-by-professor-ray-sharples/ Very positive feedback and 30 mins questions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://flamsteed.info/event/new-eyes-on-the-universe-astronomical-technology-for-the-21st-century-by...
 
Description Royal Society Summer Science exhibition 2016 - Astronomy exhibit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over 14,000 members of the public, including 2000 school students, visit the Summer Science Exhibition. Many more are reached through coverage on TV, in the media and online.

The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to raise the profile of our research and institution with key influencers, including potential funders, government and the public. We estimate that we had direct contact with over 3000 visitors looking at our exhibits.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/summer-science-exhibition/exhibits/galaxy-maker...
 
Description Science of our Lives - several school visits 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact General public came to watch the film 'Gravity' and before the film I demonstrated some
space themed activities to engage people with the science of the film. These activities
included Space Nappies, an angular momentum stall and tasting astronaut food. This
event was part of National Science and Engineering Week, Planetarium shows etc

Invited back to give talk next year etc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk Active Galaxies and Supermassive Black Holes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk given as outreach to the Astronomy in Teesdale group based in Barnard Castle by Dr David Rosario
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk at Bishop Auckland Astronomical Society by Alastair Edge 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Talk at Bishop Auckland Astronomical Society Bishop Auckland Community Fire Station, Bishop Auckland DL14 6RS 2016-10-06 General Publiclecture: I gave a version of my Inaugural Lecture "Astronomical Surveys: the Progress in Three Lifetimes". "I talked for 50 minutes and then had 35 minutes of questions so I definitely provoked some interest!

I got this email the day after which was very positive:


Hi Alastair,
                   On behalf of Bishop Auckland Astronomical Society i would like to say a huge Thank You for your presentation last night.
I had some great feedback,and everyone thoroughly enjoyed what was a fantastic night.
Stay by the phone Professor we'll definately have you back at a later date.
Again Alastair Thank You again.

Kind Regards Duane.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Twitter account ICC https://twitter.com/DarkerMatters?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Twitter account with currently over 1400 followers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018
URL https://twitter.com/DarkerMatters?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor