Astronomy Research at Queen Mary 2020 - 2023

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Astronomy Unit

Abstract

We propose to undertake the following research projects.

1) We will develop and extend non-linear numerical codes which model the evolution of the universe from inflation to recombination. Using these codes we will calculate precision observable signatures of the early universe including the bispectrum, magnetic fields and gravitational waves. We will use these observable signatures to confront models of inflation and reheating with forthcoming observational survey data.

2) We explore signatures of GR in galaxy clustering observables; develop optimal statistical methods to extract them from standard contributions; provide simulation data and analysis software to measure and exploit these unique windows on gravity with forthcoming cosmological surveys.

3) We develop the mathematical and numerical tools required to understand gravitational physics in both the mildly non-linear and strongly non-linear regimes. This work will apply and extend the perturbation theories and parameterizations of dark energy and modified gravity that we have already created for these regimes, and allow us to create the tools that are necessary to exploit them using upcoming data.

4) We extend our state of the art simulations and develop complete data analysis pipelines for the cross-correlation of HI intensity mapping surveys with spectroscopic and photometric optical galaxy surveys. This will enable pioneering HI and cosmological measurements, combining currently available and forthcoming data; provide an open source analysis toolkit for HI intensity mapping and optical galaxy data-sets.

5) We develop and apply statistical analysis methods to solve several important challenges in the analysis of 21cm datasets, e.g. due to foreground leakage and covariance-related signal loss. We will develop fast but highly-accurate simulations to characterise the methods, and then apply them to data from HERA, a key SKA precursor. We will disseminate our tools and expertise to prime the UK community for SKA1.

6) We use plasma wake-field acceleration as a unifying concept to study novel particle acceleration concepts and the origin of ultra high energy cosmic rays . We will perform ground-breaking analytical calculations and cutting-edge plasma fluid and kinetic numerical simulations to address the fascinating, unanswered science questions related to particle acceleration in CERN and black holes.

7) GAIA DR2 can measure pairwise velocity differences for wide binary stars to excellent precision ~ 0.05 km/s. We have selected a sample of > 5000 good candidate wide binaries with low contamination. We propose to follow-up a subset of these with spectroscopy and public imaging to produce a `cleaned' sample, and use this to derive useful new constraints on modified-gravity models.

8) We use HPC simulations to model the gas and dust discs that orbit young stars, which are believed to be the sites of planet formation. We study how the planets that form in these discs interact with them, leading to orbital migration, gap formation and accretion of material. Extrasolar planets are observed to have a broad range of masses and orbital architectures, and we examine the role of disc-planet interactions in determining these properties.

9) We develop novel, canonical hydrodynamic numerical schemes, suitablefor inspiral simulations and gravitational-wave detection of neutron binary systems. We obtain formulations of a general class of modified theories of gravity with higher curvature corrections which can be used for inspiral simulations of black hole binaries.

10) We develop a theoretical and computational infrastructure to model gravitational wave signals from extreme mass-ratio inspirals, combining novel numerical methods with time-domain
gravitational self-force computation in a radiation gauge to allow calculations for any type of orbit, including highly eccentric or unbound ones, self-consistently for the first time.

Planned Impact

The broad range of research topics that we study provides a
stimulating environment which encourages a view of Astronomy as the
study of all of the Universe and its history. Outreach Astronomy,
with the combination of awe-inspiring images and the desire to explain
how the Universe works, has always excited a deep interest in the
general public. Astronomy and space science are often quoted by
students as a motivation to continue studying science to university
level. Our wide ranging programme of proposed Astronomy and Solar and
Planetary research will be a basis for building on the Astronomy
Unit's existing programme of outreach activities, that are motivated
in part by our desire to address the STEM agenda. We will reach
audiences of schools and the general public by websites, talks,
exhibitions, general outreach events, popular science articles, media
appearances and through the School of Physics and Astronomy's Physics
Research in School Environments outreach programme. The Astronomy Unit
has a long tradition of outreach activities, supported by the
University with an Outreach Manager and two Outreach Officers for
Physics & Astronomy.


Our proposed programme of research in Astronomy and Solar and
Planetary Studies comprises projects spanning the breadth of these
subjects. We will study aspects of the solar system such as Saturn's
ring and satellite system, the formation of the giant planets, and
waves and turbulence in the solar wind. Although rooted in the solar
system, the results of these projects will be relevant for many other
astrophysical environments. We will study the formation and migration
of extrasolar planets, and examine particle acceleration in the
magnetised jets around black holes to explain the origins of high
energy cosmic rays. Our cosmology projects will study the early and
late history of the Universe, and we will study alternatives to
Einstein's theory of gravity using data from the GAIA satellite.


Our recent and current activities include the following:

*The Pale Red Dot project, and its successor The Red Dots project, is
an on-going outreach activity. We are leading an international team
that discovered a planet around our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima
Centauri, and which is continuing to search for terrestrial planets
around the nearest red dwarfs, culminating in the recent discovery of
a super-Earth planet orbiting at the ice-line around Barnard's star.We
have developed an outreach project that allows members of the public
to follow the progress of the research through dedicated websites
(https://paleredot.org, https://reddots.space), Facebook page and
twitter feed. In addition to providing a 'live view' of how a
scientific research project unfolds, these resources also host science
and opinion-based articles written by some of the world's leading
astronomers pitched at the level of a popular audience.

*The School runs an outreach project Physics Research in School
Environments (PRiSE). This programme offers school students the
opportunity to experience authentic scientific research over a
sustained period of time within their school. Students and teachers
taking advantage of the programme are supported by active researchers
who specialise in the field of the research projects we offer. Within
the context of our research in Astronomy and Solar and Planetary
Studies, we offer the projects Planet Hunting with Python, Cosmic Rays
and Space Sounds (MUSICS).

*Astrophysics Taster Course: aimed at A-level students, this one day
course offers an insight into what it's like to study the subject at
university. Lectures from the Astronomy Unit are a mixture of research
and example subject lectures.

Publications

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