Astrophysics Research at the University of Leicester

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


Our research aims to investigate a range of high-priority science topics in these areas:

i. studying high-energy and high-redshift explosive transients and how they relate to gravitational wave events
ii. investigating the growth and evolution of the first stars and black holes in galaxies
iii. determining the properties of accretion disks in active galactic nuclei
iv. measuring the fundamental properties of white dwarf stars, the remnants of stars like the Sun
v. investigating the properties of exoplanets, brown dwarfs and low mass stars
vi. determining the evolution of tidal disruption events in galaxies where stars are torn apart as they come close to a supermassive black
vii. investigating the origin of the stars seen in the centre of the Milky Way galaxy
viii. determining the structure of the Milky Way galaxy
ix. investigating the auroral emission of exoplanets
x. developing the concept of an intensity interferometry system for the Cherenkov Telescope Array to provide high-resolution images of cosmic objects

We will deliver this programme by carrying out observations using a broad range of ground and space based observing facilities, including XMM-Newton, HST, Swift, GAIA, JWST, ALMA, VLT, VISTA, WHT, INT, LT, NGTS, GOTO and Spitzer, and by conducting numerical simulations using major High Performance Computer facilities such as DiRAC.

Planned Impact

The applicants on the grant offer a diverse skill set that constitute a valuable resource to the private and public sectors. We have extensive experience and expertise in e.g. data analysis and handling, spacecraft and mission management, algorithm design, software engineering and high-performance computing. Exploitation of this expertise is supported at all levels within the University, and is a prime driver behind the £100M 'Space Park Leicester' concept.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is committed to promoting and maximising the impact of our research. The College of Science and Engineering plays a leading role in the Enterprise Agenda for the University and offers dedicated enterprise officers and impact enhancing resources. Further support is provided by the University's Research and Enterprise Division, which works with academics and external stakeholders to create maximum impact in the local, national, and international community. This structure (i) delivers enterprising impact through the alignment of our research with major global and industrial challenges, (ii) identifies and addresses the opportunities to play a positive role in the economic development of our region and the UK, (iii) utilises research and related activities to develop skills and capability within a broad spectrum of the public and private sectors, (iv) provides expert advice and guidance to industry and policy makers, (v) ensures that its intellectual property is effectively transferred and disseminated, and (vi) contributes to the wider cultural benefit of society through an enterprising and engaging outreach programme.

The long-term impact strategy has four elements:

(1) to support and develop the skills and experience of the applicants;
(2) to ensure that links with public and private sector industries are developed and maximised;
(3) to disseminate knowledge, skills and expertise to the benefit of the local, national and international business and civic communities;
4) to sustain and develop our successful outreach programme with particular emphasis on enhancing our efforts to develop valid outcome measures.


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