Cosmology and Astrophysics at Portsmouth

Lead Research Organisation: University of Portsmouth
Department Name: Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation

Abstract

This consolidated grant is to support cosmology and astrophysics research in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) at the University of Portsmouth. The ICG was formed in 2002 through a strategic investment from the university, and now hosts 50 researchers making it one of the largest extragalactic astronomy groups in the UK.

Cosmology and astrophysics are experiencing a golden age of discovery driven by new experiments and theoretical advances. However, we still face three fundamental challenges before a more complete model of the Universe can be achieved: i) What are the properties of the "dark matter" and "dark energy" that make up 96% of the Universe? ii) How do galaxies form and evolve? iii) What is the origin and distribution of structures in the Universe?

This grant will address these fundamental problems through pioneering theoretical work and the use of new surveys of the sky to map billions of distant galaxies. Galaxies are the "building blocks" of the Universe and as well as studying how they form, we will use the galaxies to improve our understanding of cosmology (the properties of the Universe as a whole). We will exploit current and forthcoming galaxy surveys including the Dark Energy Survey, BOSS and LOFAR to measure numerous probes of cosmology such as the clustering of galaxies, supernovae and weak gravitational lensing (distortions of the galaxies' shape due to gravity). Precise cosmological models will be constructed and analysed, and simulated with Portsmouth's SCIAMA supercomputer. These models will be compared to data to reveal the cosmological properties of the Universe.

These surveys will also be used to study how galaxies form, by measuring their colours and taking detailed spectra of the galaxies. We will also study the evolution of galaxies by comparing the galaxies in the nearby Universe, showing their present state, with those of the distant Universe, which gives us a window into the past.

Bringing together all our work, we will model and measure the evolution of the Universe throughout its entire history. We will constrain whether the accelerated cosmic expansion is best accounted for by a cosmological constant, as first proposed by Einstein, or more exotic theories like quintessence, extra dimensions or changes to the laws of gravity. Additionally, our analyses will shed light on the properties of dark matter, which we can detect via gravity but which does not interact like normal matter. We will also obtain a fuller understanding of the characteristics of galaxies throughout cosmic time. This will tell us whether the usual assumptions about dark matter provide an adequate description of the formation and evolution of galaxies.

In addition to research, the ICG staff are committed to public outreach and have been engaged in a number of high-profile activities in the media and local community. For example, our staff have visited many local schools to discuss their careers, their research (e.g. Galaxy Zoo), and their enthusiasm for astrophysics and cosmology.

Planned Impact

Over the last five years, the ICG has established a comprehensive public outreach programme, including:

1) Providing popular talks to numerous local astro societies, local schools, festivals, and public events. In Jan 2012, the ICG deliver a major BBC `Stargazing Live' event at Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower, with 450 ticketed visitors. We also include public talks in our professional meetings, e.g., in Nov 2011, Carlos Frenk gave a popular talk to 300 people. We will continue to deliver such popular talks at roughly one a month

2) Contributing work experience for school students (short work visits or longer Nuffield summer bursaries). In March 2012, we expect 120 local pupils to attend our annual "Cosmology Masterclass" to provide pupils with additional material for their physics GSCE modules. We will continue this engagement with schools, building upon our strong relationship with local teachers, SEPNet and the University school liaison officer

3) Continuing to engage local and national media. ICG has obtained excellent local exposure with frequent articles in the Portsmouth News, many radio interviews and features on local TV news. Nationally, our staff are featured in science magazines, newspapers, and BBC science shows. We will continue to liaise with the university media office and offer all staff and postdocs professional media training

4) Deployment of the latest technologies, e.g., ICG members are deeply involved in Galaxy Zoo (GZ), which has had phenomenal impact, including the education of GZ users via blogs and forums. Beyond GZ, Karen Masters maintains the LOFAR-UK public website, and several ICG postdocs are actively using social networking media to engage the public (podcasts, twittering, facebook). We will continue to engage with these new technologies and plan to make them central to our impact agenda

5) Engaging policy makers: Karen Masters participated in "Voice of the Future 2009" which visited and questioned the UK Science Select Committee, while Bob Nichol has lobbied STFC & DIUS as Chair of the Far Universe Advisory Panel (FUAP). This resulted in David Willetts visiting the Univ. of Portsmouth in July 2011 to discuss a range of issues including science funding, immigration and EU competition rules. We will continue this engagement with policy makers, including writing to local MPs.

Overall, ICG will seek to increase the capacity of outreach activity over the period of this grant through the continued encouragement and funding of scientists engaged in outreach activity. This will include offering training courses, travel and equipment expenses where appropriate. Beyond department support, all of our staff, students and postdocs are actively encouraged to apply for external outreach funding from STFC, Royal Society, Nuffield and IoP. Finally, the ICG is part of the South-East Physics Network (SEPNet), which is a regional network of physics departments with a full-time outreach coordinator and additional resources.

The ICG knowledge exchange (KE) plan is focused on inter-disciplinary science, including maintaining the SCIAMA supercomputer, of which 15% is being used by other disciplines (maths, engineering, applied physics and biology). This collaboration stimulates inter-disciplinary research and we provide specialized training to all users. We will continue to interact with industry, including local companies (IBM and EADS-Astrium) and we received $50k from Google for GZ resulting in a visit to the Google office in London. The goal of such interactions is to investigate the opportunities for CASE studentships, and such activity should increase with our strong involvement in the ESA Euclid mission, which includes EADS-Astrium. The ICG provides all members with access and training on KE, and everyone is encouraged to consider commercial applications of their research. This education is provided through the university's "Purple Door" initiative.

Publications

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Agnello A (2015) Discovery of two gravitationally lensed quasars in the Dark Energy Survey in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description Research at the ICG has helped understand the formation and evolution of the universe. This information is important to advance our understand of fundamental physics as well as being of great interest and fascination by the general public.
Exploitation Route Research at ICG is published in peer-reviewed journals and have received significant citations over the last decade. Researchers at the ICG are some of the highest cited astrophysicists and cosmologists in the UK, showing their work is used and influential (mainly by other academics in our field of research)
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Research at the ICG has helped understand the formation and evolution of the universe. This information is important to advance our understand of fundamental physics as well as being of great interest and fascination by the general public.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Continuation of funding as new STFC consolidated grant "Cosmology and Astrophysics at Portsmouth"
Amount £1,378,546 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 04/2015
 
Description DES 
Organisation Dark Energy Survey (DES)
Country Global 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Scientific leadership and guidance, preparation of scientific simulations and preparations, organisation of meetings and events
Collaborator Contribution Access to proprietary data and scientific collaboration
Impact Scientific publications (see publication list)
Start Year 2006
 
Description Euclid Consortium 
Organisation UK Space Agency
Department Euclid Consortium
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Scientific and collaboration leadership. Help with design of weak lensing science requirements, scientific coordination of the mission and design of the Euclid deep field
Collaborator Contribution Involvement in the design and possible construction of the Euclid satellite mission which is one of three concepts being studied by ESA and the UK space agency.
Impact Involvement in many aspects of the Euclid design and management. Involvement in the drafting of the Euclid "Yellow Book". Some funding from the UK Space Agency.
Start Year 2008
 
Description LOFAR 
Organisation LOFAR
Country Netherlands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Scientific and technical assistance with the funding and installation of a LOFAR antenna array at Chilbolton. Scientific leadership in the use of LOFAR-UK and LOFAR in general
Collaborator Contribution Access to proprietary data and UK LOFAR array at Chilbolton.
Impact See publications
Start Year 2008
 
Description SDSS 
Organisation Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III)
Department Astrophysical Research Council
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have collaborated on research including catalogue preparation, database hosting, documentation and SDSS outreach & public understanding
Collaborator Contribution Access to unique proprietary data
Impact Many peer-reviewed academic publications (see list of publications)
Start Year 2006
 
Description Astronomical Societies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Many of the co-I's have given public talks at both local astronomy societies (South Downs, Eastbourne, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Hampshire, Farnham, Worthing, Guildford etc.) and national astronomical society meetings (BAA, SPA).

Increased awareness of Portsmouth research across the region
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
 
Description Cosmology Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Since 2012 the Cosmology Masterclass has engaged and inspired over 200 A level students with research at the ICG. The Cosmology Masterclass began as a collaboration with The Portsmouth Grammar School in 2010 and is now held annually on campus, with several additional 'mini-Masterclasses' each year at local colleges.

- Feedback from the 2013 event was some of the best the University has received for an A level event.
- Over the years 13 students have subsequently joined ICG for summer placements of which four cite their experiences at ICG as helping them to decide to pursue STEM subjects at university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Cosmology Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Since 2012 the Cosmology Masterclass has engaged and inspired over 200 A level students with research at the ICG. The Cosmology Masterclass began as a collaboration with The Portsmouth Grammar School in 2010 and is now held annually on campus, with several additional 'mini-Masterclasses' each year at local colleges.

- Feedback from the 2013 event was some of the best the university has received for an A level event.
- Over the years 13 students have subsequently joined ICG for summer placements of which four cite their experiences at ICG as helping them to decide to pursue STEM subjects at university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Eclipse in Guildhall Square 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over 1000 members of the public attended an event in Portsmouth Guildhall Square organised by the ICG in collaboration with Portsmouth City Council for the March 2015 partial solar eclipse. Despite total cloud cover, many of the attendees chatted to ICG members about their research and watched live feeds of the eclipse on the Big Screen. The event was covered by several local media outlets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Galaxy Zoo 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Members of the public are asked to classify images of galaxies on www.galaxyzoo.org to contribute to astronomical research, resulting in nearly 50 peer reviewed publications to date.

Galaxy Zoo has produced a unique database that could not have been obtained without the involvement of the public; visual classifications for over a million galaxies. This database has significant scientific value for astronomy as well as other subjects (computer vision). The public have also been involved in the scientific process and via webblogs and forums, have learnt about the science of GalaxyZoo, as well as being involved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
URL http://www.galaxyzoo.org
 
Description Girls into Physics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Bridget Falck co-organised an event for female A-level students, their parents and teachers, to encourage the girls to consider continuing studying physics to a higher level. The attendees really engaged with the event, and the majority of the girls reported that the event had made them more confident in their ability to study physics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description ICG-PGS Christmas Lecture 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 110 members of the public attended a talk by Kazuya Koyama

- a member of the audience who is studying at The Portsmouth Grammar School will be joining the ICG for work experience in summer 2014
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Physics Taster Day 
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 In 2015/16 the University of Portsmouth began to offer Physics Taster Days for A-level students, combining the ICG's Cosmology Masterclass with other physics activities. These events have been attended by over 100 A-level students from colleges across the region, who attend talks and activities with several of the co-Is. The events spark lots of questions and discussion about physics, cosmology and attending university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
 
Description Public Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Co-Is are regularly invited to give public talks at a variety of events in the local area, nationally and aboard. These include Science Festivals, Astronomy Festivals, community events, and special interest group meetings. These talks always spark a lot of questions and discussion following the talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Schools Physicist of the Year Awards 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Schools were asked to nominate year 9 and 12 pupils as their "Ogden schools physicist of the year". Award winners were invited to an awards ceremony with their parents and teachers. The event sparked lots of discussion and questions between the students, parents and ICG researchers. In 2016, the awards were changed to be for year 10 and year 12 pupils.

One school has requested further activities from the ICG.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Space Lectures (Winchester) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bob Nichol, Claudia Maraston and David Wands have all delivered lectures as part of the Winchester Science Centre Space Lectures series. In total, these lectures were attended by over 500 members of the public. All three lectures sparked many questions, and resulted in at least one school pupil visiting the ICG for work experience.

- a school pupil who attended Claudia Maraston's talk is joining the ICG for work experience in summer 2014
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Stargazing Live 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 5500 people attended a BBC Learning Stargazing Live event for which the ICG was the main academic partner. The event was held in Portsmouth due to the success of the previous year's event at the Historic Dockyard. Members of the public participated in a number of activities linked to ICG research, sparking questions and discussion.

- there was an increase in traffic to the ICG website two days after the event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Stargazing Live 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 450 members of the public attended the annual Stargazing Live at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard event organised by the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation with HMS Warrior and Action Stations. The majority of Co-Is participated in the event, talking to attendees about their research through stands and hands-on activities. The event was also attended by several local councillors. Many attendees reported that the event had inspired them to find out more about astronomy or attend more science-related events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Stargazing Live 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 650 members of the public attended the annual Stargazing Live at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard event in January 2016, organised by the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation with HMS Warrior and Action Stations. The majority of Co-Is participated in the event, engaging the audience with their research through hands-on activities, Q&As and talks. Physics undergraduate students from the University were also trained to deliver activities, developing their soft skills.

The event was very well-received by the attendees, and many reported that they would seek out further science engagement opportunities and learn more about astronomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description TV appearance - Horizon - Nichol 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Professor Bob Nichol featured in an episode of BBC Horizon: Dancing in the Dark - The End of Physics?

The Horizon crew accompanied Professor Nichol to Chile and, in the documentary, he discusses the scope of cosmology, the observational evidence for the nature of dark matter, and the mystery of dark energy which is expected to occupy astrophysics for some time.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk - "First light: the cosmic microwave background" - Crittenden inaugural 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Professor Crittenden's inaugural lecture, attended by VIPs, members of the ICG and the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk - Shining galaxies in a dark Universe - Maraston inaugural 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Professor Maraston's inaugural lecture, attended by VIPs, members of the ICG and the general public

None recorded
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description UP for Space (A Visit from Space) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Monthly visit to a local primary school for a morning of talks and astronomy activities with key stage 2 pupils (usually year 5, age 9/10). Typically engaging with 45 - 90 children per visit.

Overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers including 'our students not only learned a lot about the galaxies and universe but also improved confidence to want to become scientists and find out more about science'. Two schools sent thank you letters with follow-up questions. Several schools have booked visits in consecutive years.

Overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers including 'our students not only learned a lot about the galaxies and universe but also improved confidence to want to become scientists and find out more about science'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description UoP Year 12 Science Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Co-Is have contributed talks to the annual Faculty of Science conference for year 12 students, sparking questions following the talk.

Unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2014,2015
 
Description Work Experience Programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the ICG held a work experience week for Year 10 pupils to experience a cosmology research environment. Pupils were selected from local schools through a competitive process.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016