Astrophysics Consolidated Grant 2019-22

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Mullard Space Science Laboratory


This consolidated grant application comprises a portfolio of related projects across the fields of astrophysics and instrumentation.

The astrophysics projects are in three strands: high energy astrophysics; galaxy formation & evolution; and cosmology. These each have a direct and influential connection with the space facilities by which each field is or will be transformed. This is the particular advantage held by the Group, providing a noteworthy dimension to the work we propose. However our programme is by no means limited by MSSL hardware exploitation or even the exploitation of missions flying our hardware. Rather, every route available is considered, including ground-based facilities, when gathering the data necessary to understand the science questions that we address and that have been identified by STFC as being important. The Consolidated Grant also sets the foundation for the expoitation of future missions including JWST, Euclid, PLATO, Athena, IXPE and potentially eXTP and STROBE-X, in which we have significant roles.

Our instrumentation research is focused on the development of a scanning infrared detector.

We present eight projects, aligned with these four fields of expertise. In order, these are three cases in high energy astrophysics/extreme gravity environments (Wu, Zane); two cases in galaxy formation and evolution (one by Kawata, Ferreras, Cropper and one by Page); two cases in cosmology (McEwen, Kitching); and a technical case for the development of a scanning infrared (Cropper), which is an investment in a critical space technology for the future.

Planned Impact


Members of the UK Science Community, particularly those in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology, but also those in the statistical methods, numerical methods, imaging techniques and signal processing communities. Those engaged in space instrumentation development both within academia and industry, especially detector manufacturers Teledyne e2v.

Relevance, and how the benefit will accrue:

The broad relevance of the work in the proposed projects lies in the extension of knowledge and understanding of the Cosmos, which is evidently of almost universal interest. There are also specific relevances in infrared detectors (Project 8), with medium-term commercial opportunities. Space science is an inspirational subject and its promotion has real benefit to the UK economy through greater interest in STEM subjects and a generally greater understanding of science and technology amongst the public. Space projects stimulated by space science inquiry lead to direct industrial benefit, enhanced technology, influence and national kudos. MSSL-UCL, is, through its space instrumentation programme (not requested in this grant except for Project 8) and international links to aerospace companies and national agencies, especially engaged in knowledge transfer at all levels, and in a particularly advantaged position to promote these.

The outcomes from these proposed projects will be analyses and conclusions arising from the work in the projects, and will be published, with open access, in learned journals, and so accessible to all. The benefits will initially accrue to other scientists in the fields addressed in the projects, and then, made known to the wider public as and where possible. UCL has embraced the concept of Open Access.

Examples of specific activities designed to increase impact include:

1) the cooperative engagement of the biomedical and signal processing communities with the astronomical through the BASP meetings (see case) to share and enhance the capability for fundamental information theory approaches in the statistical treatment of surveys and imaging, given noise, biases and incomplete data. This has wide-reaching implications for treatment of extremely large datasets, with applicability in many disciplines, from the financial to engineering to medical and the public policy sphere.

2) through the Euclid work (Project 7) identifying with exquisite detail the extent to which large astronomic surveys can inform detector characteristics (systematic effects, radiation, noise behaviour) to be provided through the instrumentation team to CCD manufacturers Teledyne e2v;

4) the development of a high performance infrared detector that is suitable for scanning applications in collaboration with Teledyne e2V.


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