Consolidated Solar and Astrophysics Research at UCLan

Lead Research Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Department Name: Jeremiah Horrocks Institute


This consolidated grant proposal brings together research within the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute (JHI) of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the key research areas of solar physics, stellar astrophysics, Galactic astrophysics, and extra-Galactic astrophysics. In all of these areas, we will be addressing key science questions at the cutting edge of astrophysical research. Some examples of these are given here.

In the area of solar physics we will look at issues such as including accurate modelling in our understanding of the interface between the solar corona, photosphere and chromosphere, in order to provide quantitative insight into the solar coronal heating problem. We will simulate the motions of solar energetic particles (SEPs) in the heliosphere in order to study SEP transport from the Sun to the Earth. This will link into a study of the relation between solar eruptive events and SEP transport, which in turn will allow us to make more accurate predictions of space weather effects on the Earth. We will also study the rotation of sunspots and understand what causes them to rotate, in order to discover to what extent rotating flares and sunspots lead to solar eruptions. In another study we will discover what effect planets in our solar system have in shaping the zodiacal cloud.

In the area of stellar astrophysics, we will solve some of the currently unanswered key questions in star formation, particularly those surrounding the formation, structure and evolution of prestellar cores. This is important, because there is believed to be a link between the core mass function and the stellar Initial Mass Function (IMF). It is planned that this will lead us to a true physical understanding of the origin of the IMF itself. As part of this study we will look at the roles of turbulence and magnetic fields in star formation. We will also study the evolution of discs around protostars and the effects of binarity on planet formation, and model the migration of giant planets in discs around protostars to see how this is affected by stellar luminosity and the properties of the disc. We will also use Kepler data to explore and understand internal angular momentum transport in hydrogen-burning, main-sequence stars.

In the areas of Galactic and extra-Galactic astrophysics we plan to measure the ages and abundance patterns of stellar populations in galaxies, to understand when and where the stars formed. We will model physical processes in star-forming systems within the disc of a galaxy in order to develop quantitative predictions for stellar migration in the Milky Way disc. One of the overall goals in this area is to infer the mass assembly of the Milky Way, and hence to understand the formation and evolution of the Milky Way as a whole. In external galaxies we will develop recollimation shock simulations in extra-galactic jets to include additional physics and realistic conditions, in order to better understand these highly energetic phenomena. We will resolve the FeII problem in quasars, and finally we will study ultra-large quasar groups that apparently exceed the homogeneity scale limit, to begin to understand the Universe on its largest scales.

Planned Impact

Community Engagement

The primary beneficiaries are students at schools and colleges, as well as members of the broader community, in Lancashire. In addition via social media and partnerships with organisations beyond the county, our reach is global.

While there is an element of dissemination in much of this work, the real impact derives from demonstrating to the people of Lancashire that work of national and international importance is taking place on their doorstep, and they can both benefit and become involved. Lancashire has some significant areas of very low engagement in Higher Education, including one of the lowest regions, Burnley. Our engagement work allows us to influence aspirations amongst children from a young age, and maintain interest in physics-focused study through the critical teenage years. In addition some of the initiatives described in Pathways to Impact have regional (North West) and wider reach, demonstrating that such work is not restricted to the largest and most prestigious institutes that may not be perceived as accessible to those from under-represented communities. For more details, see: and

Alston Observatory

We also run the Alston Observatory, about 8 miles from Preston, which is a purpose-built teaching facility. Also on the site are telescopes with a long history. We also have a Discovery Dome planetarium system, exhibits on Telescopes as Time Machines funded by the Royal Astronomical Society, and an outside experiment on Measuring the Cosmos. Discovery Dome is an exciting system that allows a laptop computer and digital projector to display movies onto a planetarium dome, as well as enhanced planetarium shows. This will enable both informative material to be presented for evening events, and educational material for curriculum enhancement. We run many outreach events at Alston, including Stargazing Live and other public observing evenings. We have links with many local astronomical societies. We also run many events for local schools at Alston. See:

Space Weather Prediction

Our work improving space weather prediction systems has wide social and economic impact, by providing more accurate estimates of the degree, timing and duration of disruption. This allows space-based systems sensitive to solar particles and geomagnetic storms to be placed in safe mode with greater warning and less disruption, and allows civil defence planners to prepare with greater confidence that scarce resources will not be wasted. The space weather warnings developed within the COMESEP project, that we are engaged with, are already being distributed to over 500 subscribers to the SIDC Regional Warning Centre and COMESEP services, many of them corporate in nature. Consequently the benefit is to all their customers and service users, reducing costs and enhancing quality of life. The improved accuracy of the predictions arising from our research comes about because of our improved analysis of the motions of solar energetic particles (SEPs) in the presence of magnetic fields. Our code allows for cross-field transport of SEPs, as well as motion along field lines. No other code does this, which reduces the number of false alerts arising from predictions made using our code, and makes our system unique.


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Abbott C (2017) On the orbits that generate the X-shape in the Milky Way bulge in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Balona L (2019) High frequencies in TESS A-F main-sequence stars in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Bowman D (2015) Amplitude Modulation in the d Sct star KIC 7106205 in EPJ Web of Conferences

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Buckle J (2015) The JCMT Gould Belt Survey: SCUBA-2 observations of circumstellar discs in L 1495 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Description This grant covers many aspects of Astrophysics, from stellar pulsations, to planet formation. Dan Holdsworth was part of a team that discovered the planets around the star Trappist-1. Ward-Thompson and Pattle have made the most sensitive observations ever undertaken of magnetic fields deep inside the clouds where stars are forming today. Kurtz has discovered how the interiors of stars rotate and Stamatellos and Dunhill have modelled how planets form in discs around young stars - models that are now being validated by ALMA observations.
Exploitation Route These findings will be tested by ourselves and others on ALMA, SKA, etc.
Sectors Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

Description Our findings have been published in international refereed journals, and have been disseminated through many public lectures. We have been reported on TV, radio and print media.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural

Description STFC Consolidated Grant
Amount £1,200,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2021
Title Telescopes 
Description Observing at multiple international telescopes. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Multiple refereed publications. 
Description BLASTPOL-2 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Aided in selecting science targets.
Collaborator Contribution Everything else.
Impact Still ongoing.
Start Year 2016
Description Polarimetry with HAWC+ on SOFIA 
Organisation University of Chicago
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have brought our expertise on polarimetry in general and on some of the targeted regions in particular.
Collaborator Contribution The partners built a polarimeter HAWC+ for use on the SOFIA telescope.
Impact One unrefereed publication has appeared already, and refereed publications will be forthcoming.
Start Year 2017
Description Talks and Presentations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Multiple talks were given at schools and public groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018