Lancaster University: Observational Astrophysics PATT grant

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Physics


Astrophysics is the study of the physical nature of celestial objects and the Universe in which they live. The Astrophysics group at Lancaster has been set up recently (in 2015) within the Physics Department, complementing the existing Astro-particle Cosmology and Space and Planetary Physics groups.

The new group's research is primarily observational and tackles some of the most important open questions in Astrophysics, broadly centred around understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies and the properties of the Universe itself. The group's research on galaxies includes detailed measurement of the stellar populations within relatively nearby galaxies and star clusters ("galactic archaeology") through to searches for the most distant galaxies observable. Through these studies we can probe the earliest systems that formed in the Universe. Related research on the properties of the Universe includes measuring cosmological parameters such as the expansion rate and geometry of the Universe, and the relative fractions and properties of its constituents, including ordinary matter and the mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

This research involves making state-of-the-art observations using the world's most powerful telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the facilities of the European Southern Observatory, including ALMA and VLT. At the same time the group is involved in the scientific planning for several new telescopes and instruments that will come online in the next 5-10 years and that will revolutionise research in astrophysics. These include the 4MOST spectrograph to be mounted on the VISTA telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (an 8m diameter survey telescope), the 40m European Extremely Large Telescope and in space ESA's Euclid mission (a wide-field survey telescope for cosmology), ESA's FLARE mission, and the 6m diameter James Webb Space Telescope.

The main topics of research at Lancaster are:
- chemical abundances of stars, globular clusters and galaxies; dynamics and morphologies of near-by galaxies;
- galaxy formation and evolution; emission-line galaxies; very high-redshift galaxies; reionisation of the universe; the star formation history of the Universe;
- supernovae as cosmological probes; cosmological parameters; dark matter and dark energy;
- scientific planning for future telescopes and instruments.

In this proposal we are applying for a new PATT grant to support our new Observational Astrophysics group. The grant will cover the travel and subsistence costs of all researchers at Lancaster for observing runs at PATT approved telescopes.


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