Astrophysics Research at Liverpool John Moores University: Consolidated Grant Renewal

Lead Research Organisation: Liverpool John Moores University
Department Name: Astrophysics Research Institute

Abstract

We will continue to pursue ground-breaking astrophysical research at the forefront of knowledge through both observational and theoretical work.

Under the heading of star formation, we will test the predictions of an evolutionary scenario for producing stars in the Galactic Centre which has the potential to open a new frontier in such research. We will find the pristine birth sites of the most massive stars, directly testing predictions of models seeking to explain the observed stellar mass distribution. In addition, we will measure how efficiently gas clouds are converted into stars across much of the Galaxy, producing the first constraints on the dominant mechanisms or environmental factors regulating star formation, thereby laying the foundations for a predictive empirical model of star formation. We will exploit our access to the UK's investment in the world's best mm observatory, ALMA and we will convert significant UK investments in SCUBA-2 and Herschel into an international lead in science outcomes.

In time-domain astrophysics, we will perform an in-depth study of the circumstances of core-collapse supernova explosions (SNe Ib/c) and identification of the progenitors of thermonuclear supernovae (SNe Ia). This project capitalises on expertise in the ARI supernova and nova groups and exploits our privileged access to data from the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory and other facilities. We will continue and expand our study of the physics of Gamma Ray Bursts, exploiting our world-leading capabilities in rapid follow-up, polarimety and MHD modelling. A combination of new robotic telescopes, instruments and data analysis will enable us to investigate new types of transients, laying the foundation for a UK lead in time-domain astrophysics beyond Gaia, into the LSST, SKA and gravitational-wave era.

Under the heading of the structure and evolution of galaxies, we will exploit our novel technique to measure chemical compositions of individual stars at Mpc distances. We will thus measure abundance patterns in nearby galaxies, and provide the best measurement yet of the Mass-Metallicity Relation in the local universe, a crucial diagnostic of the theory of galaxy formation and evolution. The project is supported by significant awards of time at major international observatories and is part of the E-ELT MOS instrument science case. We will also investigate mass assembly of galaxies using measures of mass distributions in groups and clusters. By comparing to the latest numerical models this will answer key questions regarding the star-formation efficiency of galaxies, the baryonic mass distribution, and the size-mass relationship of galaxies.

We will gain new insights into the formation of our Galaxy, by integrating state of the art models of galaxy formation, stellar evolution, and orbital analysis techniques with data from a cutting-edge new survey of Milky Way stars (a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey), in which LJMU will play a leading role. We will also use hydrodynamical simulations of galaxies and clusters, to make predictions for surveys such as Planck, REFLEX-II. This will address the number counts discrepancy of Planck clusters and the exciting possibility of free-streaming by neutrinos. We will use a new prescription for AGN feedback for the most luminous powerful radio jets, which has been missing in simulations to-date.

All of our research uses the most advanced ground-based telescopes, satellites and data analysis techniques. In turn, ARI staff lead many of the new generation surveys with these telescopes. The projects we propose are technically demanding and require computer software support to aid the delivery of the science.

The structure and organisation of the ARI is designed to deliver internationally excellent research. The ARI is known worldwide for developing and exploiting outreach activities to engage the wider population in STFC science, and we aim to enhance these.

Planned Impact

The primary impact of the research in this grant will be through an extensive programme of engagement with schools, families and the general public. This will build on our considerable experience through such projects as the National Schools' Observatory and a suite of Distance Learning courses, and will not just involve passive outreach, but active engagement in the process of research, and the sharing in its rewards.

This will be achieved partly through an ambitious programme of talks, workshops, presentations and articles to a wide range of audiences, but mainly through a set of online resources that will explore the ongoing research and allow anyone to work alongside the researchers and make their own unique contribution.

The major form of impact arising from the renewal of our Consolidated Grant, will come from activities centred around Projects 1-5 and Project 7, described in the Pathways to Impact document. These will benefit schools, amateur astronomers and the general public.

The astronomy visitor centre Spaceport, developed in a partnership between Merseytravel and the ARI, attracts in excess of 70,000 visitors p.a. and acts as a showcase for ARI science. Along with the permanent educational and interactive displays, Spaceport provides the ideal forum for the public to engage informally with researchers to discuss science and learn about research facilities such as the Liverpool Telescope. Special events are held on a regular basis including the Merseyside Astronomy Days which consist of dedicated talks, discussions and displays attended by members of the public.

In addition, through activities initiated within the ARI, there will be other more traditional forms of public engagement growing from our research. In particular we would anticipate a number of talks, panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions relating to our research. These will vary with respect to audience: schools (from primary upwards), amateur astronomy societies, lecture societies, WI, etc. We will also showcase the new research at events organised by the ARI (such as the annual Merseyside Astronomy Day) and, where appropriate, at the Spaceport visitor centre.

In all cases the benefits will be twofold. Obviously, an exposure to current research can stimulate inquiry and interest in any audience. However, a less obvious, but perhaps more important benefit is to use that stimulation to promote an appreciation of science as a whole. This is particularly important for engagement with schools where astronomy has a vital role to play in promoting science and other STEM subjects as potential careers. We also engage research students and PDRAs in Impact through `Stargazing Live' events each year, and one of our STEP PDRAs also holds an Ogden Fellowship from the Ogden Trust's Schools Partnership Programme.

In order to facilitate outreach, younger and less experienced researchers (especially PDRAs and PhD students) are encouraged to present their research to a variety of audiences, with training and support provided by the experienced Outreach team within the ARI.

We also work with non-science organisations to find ways in which the research can be used to enhance their own work. This sort of impact is difficult to predict in advance, as it is usually opportunistic, but past examples in the ARI have involved work with arts organisations and artists (including musicians, theatre companies, street theatre performers, sculptors, photographers and writers) and organisations that promote access to education (such as Aim Higher). One example of this agile approach was our development of a show garden for the 2013 Tatton Park Royal Horticultural Society Show, under the theme of "The Galaxy". Our garden not only won a Gold Medal and "Most Creative Garden" award, plus national TV coverage (including BBC TV's Gardener's World, reaching 2.5 million viewers), but also allowed us to discuss aspects of galactic structure and black holes.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Film 
Description Galaxy simulations used by Hollywood film Director Terrence Malick in his film Voyage of Time (2016) 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact None Yet 
URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk
 
Description General Astrophysics Investigation. Projects into: time domain astrophysics, galaxy evolution, stellar evolution and star formation, computational galaxy evolution and instrumentation.
Exploitation Route New projects or facilities may follow - e.g. development of £20m New Robotic Telescope; development of ecology project in game park reserves, flying astro 10 micron cameras on drones to preserve protected animal species.
Sectors Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk/Main_Page
 
Description Substantial engagement activities across all levels - schools, public, parliamentary displays, Chelsea Flower Show Eagle simulations were highest cited papers in 2015 over all astronomy; New project in astro-ecology linking 10 micron camera operation on drones with software data reduction techniques used in star formation to monitor rare animal species in various remote areas of the world. Collaboration with various wildlife agencies e.g. WWF. Findings are disseminated in astronomical literature and through public events and schools through the National Schools' Observatory. Partly as a result of this grant NSO now has 3,000 registered schools and delivered 140,000 observations to classrooms. We carry out a range of outreach activities visiting schools, astronomical societies and social groups. We also carry out special exhibitions and events at national venues including Tate Liverpool; FACT; the Science Museum London; the London Design Biennale at Somerset House. These have showcased ARI and LJMU research to a total estimated audience in excess of 50,000. Two of our Outreach staff have fEC awards to carry out impact for two funded projects on our renewed Consolidated Grant 2018-21. Under the directorship of Professor Steve Longmore, ARI has developed a major new research area connected to environmental impact, "Astro-ecology". Longmore and team are working with conservation agencies worldwide (e.g. WWF; Endangered Wildlife Trust; Wetland Wildlife trust; National Geographic; Borneo Nature Foundation; Indonesia National Parks; Chester Zoo; Knowsley Safari Park; Morecambe Bay Search and Rescue; several universities), flying infrared instrumentation developed for astronomical purposes on drones. Applications include: animal conservation in rain forests; peat fire detection in Indonesia and human rescue at sea. Starting with an internal LJMU startup award of £25k in 2016, this work has attracted more than £1m of external funding principally through two STFC/GCRF grant awards.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Chelsea Flower Show
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in systematic reviews
URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk/Main_Page
 
Description NSO Presentation in House of Commons
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Astro-ecology: the solution from the skies to save Earth's biodiversity
Amount £411,988 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/R002673/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2019
 
Description CO2 emission from peat fires in Indonesia
Amount £450,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/S00288X/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2022
 
Description Consolidated Renewal
Amount £1,200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/R000484/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2021
 
Description ERC Consolidator Award
Amount £1,500,000 (GBP)
Organisation EU-T0 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2018 
End 05/2023
 
Title Computational Cosmology 
Description Techniques in hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy evolution on HPC machines. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Galaxy simulation made into a film by Hollywood Director Terrence Malick Voyage of Time (2016) 
URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk/
 
Description ARI Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The ARI Outreach team delivers 50 events per year in addition to School based activities. These include, astronomy and science societies and associations, public open events, theatre, street theatre etc..art exhibitions, church societies, cubs, scouts, brownies etc..
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
 
Description Exhibitions at national venues 
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 Special exhibitions and events at national venues including: Tate Liverpool, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), the Science Museum, the London Design Biennale at Somerset House.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk/
 
Description NSO-Garden Chelsea 
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 In 2015 the NSO exhibited a garden called Dark Matter; at the Chelsea Flower Show winning a Gold medal and Best in Class" (Fresh Gardens). The aggregate audience was estimated at 211 million. The garden has an extensive legacy value at the STFC Daresbury Laboratory and is highlighted on the front cover of the 2015 STFC Impact Report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.stfc.ac.uk/files/impact-report-2015/
 
Description National Schools Observatory 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Enhanced interest and uptake of STEM subjects

Each year the NSO delivers just over 40 different events or visits to or involving schools. This reaches a total of about 4,500 pupils per year in about 80 different schools.

Increasing schools registration on NSO - more than 4000 currently
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,
URL http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk/
 
Description National Schools' Observatory 
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 The NSO has 3,000 registered schools. More than 100,000 discrete observations with the LT have been returned to schools for projects within the classroom.
Full evaluation of the impact of the NSO is currently underway.

Two of the NSO staff team now have FeC on our renewed Consolidated Grant (2018-2021)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010
URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk/
 
Description Public and Schools Outreach 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We regularly give stalks to public, societies, church groups and schools. Audience p.a. is around 20,000.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018
URL http://www.astro.ljmu.ac.uk/Main_Page