Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham 2016-2020

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Physics & Astronomy

Abstract

Our research is focused on understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies. We take many perspectives towards reaching this goal from studying high-redshift massive galaxies to low mass galaxies in the nearby universe. We provide below a summary of each project:

Project 1: Massive galaxies undergo two major transformations in the distant Universe. Their star formation is abruptly switched off, and they also transform from disc-like (or irregular) systems into compact spheroids. The aim of this project is to understand and disentangle these transformative processes. We focus in particular on a unique sample of galaxies, caught in the act of being quenched.

Project 2: How galaxies evolve is affected by both their internal properties (e.g., mass, morphology) and the environment where they live. We will study many thousands of galaxies as they fall into clusters along the cosmic filamentary web. In doing so, we will be able to learn how the different environments (filaments, groups and clusters) affect galaxies with a very broad range of mases and morphologies.

Project 3: Although we see galaxies being dramatically affected by their environment, the process is elusive in large samples due to its speed and the concealing effects of dust. Without statistics, it is hard to pin-down the influence of different environments and see how changes in star-formation and structure are related. We seek to resolve these issues by developing and applying exciting new methods.

Project 4: We use large scale numerical simulations of the intergalactic medium to examine the interplay between galaxies and gas in the early Universe. In the next few years quasar surveys will provide fresh observational insight into this topic. Modelling with numerical simulations unlocks the full potential of these data, allowing us to study the properties of galaxies when the Universe was less than a quarter of its current age.

Project 5: We will use data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) to determine the evolution of low-mass galaxies and how these relate to the formation of large galaxies. The properties of low luminosity galaxies are still largely unknown, but DES now allows us to determine the star formation histories and morphologies of these low luminosity galaxies and how they relate to the formation of their central galaxies.

Project 6: Will the large strong gravitational lens datasets expected from forthcoming surveys by facilities like Euclid and LSST really meet claims regarding insights into the structure and evolution of galaxies? By applying globally used modelling techniques to lensed images formed by ray-tracing in simulations of structure formation, this will be answered, with suggested remedies for any shortfalls found.

Project 7: We will take steps towards understanding galaxy cluster formation by quantifying the important baryonic components of forming clusters: galaxies, supermassive black holes, and the diffuse gas that lies between the galaxies. We will use our recently discovered, large sample of forming clusters in the very early Universe to measure these important constituents for the first time.

Project 8: integral-field unit spectroscopic surveys are offering a whole new dimension of information about galaxies. We will develop new tools to exploit this wealth of data, and apply them to understanding the structure and evolution of lenticular galaxies. To do so, we will exploit our membership of the SDSS-4 MaNGA survey, which is studying an unprecedented sample of 10,000 nearby galaxies.

Project 9: This project seeks to build a new simulation package designed to reproduce the underlying cosmological framework of out Universe in an extremely accurate and controlled manner suited to the stringent requirements of the latest galaxy surveys. It will also populate this framework with a wide range of the latest mock galaxy formation methods forming highly realistic versions of our Universe.

Planned Impact

Impact is embedded in the culture and working of the Group, and we have a well-established track record in its delivery.

Our extensive outreach program includes all the activities traditionally associated with astronomy. We give talks at schools, astronomical societies and events, both locally and across the country. We write popular articles and books. We engage with the media both through regular contributions and one-off press releases presenting our work.

However, we are also committed to pushing boundaries in outreach by undertaking novel activities to reach new audiences in new ways. We have a track record of collaborating with artists to produce engagingly different events and installations. We are involved in the organisation of the citizen science movement to directly involve the public in our research. We have developed a programme of outreach to local schools that prioritises widening participation, which uses an inflatable planetarium (for which we obtained the funding) as the focus for the activity. We have established a very strong presence on YouTube through the Sixty Symbols and Deep Sky Videos channels, reaching a subscriber base of in excess of half a million people all across the World.

We also work across the breadth of knowledge exchange. We have developed our success in video presentation by producing YouTube series for external organisations (including STFC). We have spun out an outreach-related company that produces realistic renderings of astronomical objects in glass. We have assisted in the application of our research to other fields, such as the implementation of the scheme we developed for allocating telescope time to the award of grant funding by the NSF. We have collaborated with engineers in the University to apply our expertise in fluid dynamics to modelling jet engines for Rolls Royce.

It is in the nature of innovative research that one cannot predict the precise areas in which possible impact will arise, so it is important to maintain a flexible attitude to its exploitation (whilst insuring that it is not relegated to a minor role because of this uncertainty). The way in which impact is embedded in the culture of the Group ensures that we are in a position to capture and exploit these opportunities as they arise, and our clear strong track record in this area demonstrates that we actually do so in practice. We fully intend to continue with this committed flexible approach through the period of this Consolidated Grant.

Publications

10 25 50

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Almaini O (2017) Massive post-starburst galaxies at z > 1 are compact proto-spheroids in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Arthur Jake (2017) nIFTy galaxy cluster simulations - V. Investigation of the cluster infall region in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Coccato Lodovico (2020) Formation of S0s in extreme environments I: clues from kinematics and stellar populations in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Elmer E. (2020) Long-term NIR Variability in the UKIDSS Ultra Deep Survey: a new probe of AGN activity at high redshift. in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description Automated Measurement of Galaxy Formation 
Organisation Carnegie Mellon University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific research collaboration Postdoctoral training
Collaborator Contribution Scientific research collaboration Postdoctoral training Financial contribution
Impact Scientific publications
Start Year 2009
 
Description Comograil 
Organisation Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL)
Country Switzerland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Scientific research collaboration and expertise
Collaborator Contribution Scientific research collaboration and expertise
Impact Scientific papers
Start Year 2007
 
Description CosmoComp 
Organisation Durham University
Department Institute for Computational Cosmology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration Postdoctoral training
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration Postdoctoral training Financial contribution
Impact Scientific papers Postdoctoral training PhD student training
Start Year 2009
 
Description DES - Dark Energy Survey 
Organisation Dark Energy Survey (DES)
Country Global 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration Financial Contribution
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Publications PhD Student Training
Start Year 2011
 
Description EDisCS - ESO Distant Cluster Survey 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Papers
 
Description EUCLID 
Organisation European Space Agency
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Scientific exploitation of data Computational support
Collaborator Contribution Scientific exploitation of data
Impact Scientific publications Space science
Start Year 2012
 
Description Euclid survey 
Organisation European Space Agency
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I co-led the legacy science, and lead an analysis of how galaxy morphologies can be measured in the survey
Collaborator Contribution I co-led the legacy science, writing papers, carrying out research
Impact Paper on joint analysis with LSST science - Scientific Synergy between LSST and Euclid
Start Year 2011
 
Description GAMA - Galaxy and Mass Assembly 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Papers
Start Year 2011
 
Description HerMES - Herschel Multi-tiered Extragalactic Survey 
Organisation University of Sussex
Department School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences Sussex
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Papers
Start Year 2011
 
Description Herschel ATLAS - Cardiff 
Organisation University of Canterbury
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Research Collaboration
Start Year 2011
 
Description LOFAR - Low-Frequency Array 
Organisation ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration Financial Contribution
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Publications
Start Year 2011
 
Description Lacegal - Latin American Chinese European GALaxy Formation network. 
Organisation Durham University
Department Institute for Computational Cosmology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Scientific Research Collaboration Training of Researchers Financial contribution
Impact Scientific Papers Training of Researchers
Start Year 2011
 
Description SDSS Manga Survey 
Organisation University of Chicago
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution x
Collaborator Contribution x
Impact x
Start Year 2013
 
Description SDSS-IV/MaNGA 
Organisation Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III)
Department Astrophysical Research Council
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Financial contribution. Scientific expertise. Research activity.
Collaborator Contribution Access to observing facilities. Access to new survey data. Scientific expertise. Research activity.
Impact This is a very recent activity. No outputs so far, but the main outputs will be scientific papers.
Start Year 2013
 
Description The Sherwood simulation project 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Project led by Bolton in Nottingham.
Collaborator Contribution Project led by Bolton in Nottingham.
Impact Outputs lsited elswhere.
Start Year 2016
 
Description UKIRT Hemisphere Survey 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific collaboration and expertise
Collaborator Contribution Scientific collaboration and expertise
Impact Scientific papers
Start Year 2012
 
Description VANDELS 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Almaini is an active member of this consortium.
Collaborator Contribution Ongoing science collaboration.
Impact Outputs listed elsewhere.
Start Year 2014
 
Description VANDELS 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Almaini is an active member of this consortium.
Collaborator Contribution Ongoing science collaboration.
Impact Outputs listed elsewhere.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Virgo Consortium 
Organisation Durham University
Department Institute for Computational Cosmology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scietific Research Collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Scietific Research Collaboration
Impact Scientific Papers
Start Year 2011
 
Description Citizen Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact see http://www.zooniverse.org

Active engagement of the public in scientific activities via the Internet, Reaching hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.zooniverse.org
 
Description Talks to schools, the general public, and astronomial societies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Members of our group have given numerous talks and presentations to local schools, astronomical societies, and to members of the public through lecture series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/outreach/outreach.aspx
 
Description The Inflativerse 
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 Initiative proposed and run by PhD students and PDRAs to bring an Inflatable Planetarium to schools and public events, and to invite schools to the University of Nottingham and other public venues,

Funding: GBP 20000 from the University of Nottingham.



Public Engagement.

It reaches more than 2000 disadvantaged children per year (focus on Widening Participation schools) and many members of the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/astronomy/planetarium/The_Inflativerse/Home.html
 
Description YouTube Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In collaboration with video journalist Brady Haran, we have developed several extremely successful series of YouTube videos, which present both broader discussion of interesting topics in astronomy but also specific explanations of our research as it is published. The approach adopted is to engage the viewer with both the science being presented and the daily life of the researchers undertaking it, so that a long-term relationship is established with the audience. The first channel that we played a major role in creating is called Sixty Symbols (http://youtube.com/sixtysymbols), which presented physics and astronomy themed around a particular symbol (such as OP for a discussion of Merrifield's work on measuring pattern speeds in galaxies). This channel currently has more than 180,000 subscribers and the 200 videos have been viewed more than 16 million times. Following from the phenomenal success of this channel, Brady was approached by Google (who own YouTube) to develop new ideas, and we collaborated with him to create Deep Sky Videos (http://youtube.com/deepskyvideos) that looks at astronomical objects, concentrating initially on the Messier Catalogue, and again drawing on our research activities on these objects. This channel has also been a success, with more than 70,000 subscribers and more than two million views of the 79 videos produced to-date. We commissioned an independent study to look at the demographics of the audience for these channels, and found that they span a very wide range of ages and backgrounds. Feedback through the channels' comment sections and email also indicates the profound effect that these videos have had on some viewers' interest and even career aspirations.

We have reached very large audiences worldwide. A large number of undergraduate physics applicants report that our YouTube videos inspired them to study physics at Nottingham or elsewhere.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.sixtysymbols.com