The major research themes in the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) at Queen's focus on the dynamic universe. Time domain studies illustrate the universe is an evolving and exciting laboratory in which to study physics on large scales. We search for distant supernovae and their progenitor stars to understand what drives these explosions. We study the asteroid and comet population in the solar system and have built instruments to take high-frequency observations of the solar surface.
The discovery of planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy (exoplanets) is one of the most active new areas in astronomy. ARC's research teams lead exoplanet discovery and characterisation projects aimed at finding new worlds like our own. All these projects are focused on exploiting or building new observational facilities and are underpinned by the development of theoretical models such as astrochemistry models of star-forming discs and exoplanets, supernova physics, energy transport in the sun, stellar atmospheres, and atomic physics.
We lead major European consortia within, for example, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and these programmes are supported by external grant funding of over £10m (in the last four years), including major UK STFC, Royal Society, and EU grants.
Recent observational research highlights include finding dozens of extra-solar planets, discovering giant twisting waves in the sun, and studying an asteroid before it entered the Earth's atmosphere. We have also identified progenitor stars of supernovae before they exploded, and discovered some of the most luminous explosions in the universe.
All of these results have been highlighted in recent papers in Science and Nature, illustrating the leading and novel nature of our research. We train and encourage students and Postdoctoral researchers to lead these research projects. Students have the opportunity to spend extensive periods at world-leading research centres such as the ESO and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
"Our students get scientific training at the world's largest telescopes and the best astronomical facilities. We encourage them to learn through doing cutting edge research, and mentor them to lead their own research projects and be first authors on their papers."Professor Stephen Smartt
School of Mathematics and Physics
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