News 08/08/2017

Birmingham-Nottingham extragalactic workshop 21st - 22nd September 2017

Workshop 2017

The Birmingham-Nottingham extragalactic workshop series consists of informal 2-day events, involving typically ~50 participants, with the aim of bringing together researchers in related strands of research in a topical and well-focused area of extragalactic astronomy.

This year, the topic of the workshop is Cosmic Mergers from Massive Black Holes to Massive Clusters, and it will be held at the University of Birmingham. We will review recent progress in our understanding of mergers in the extragalactic sky across a wide range of scales, and discuss scientific topics, physical processes, analysis techniques, and challenges of upcoming datasets, of common interest. More information about the scientific motivation can be found here.

For more details see our website

To contact us, please send an email to workshop[at]star.sr.bham.ac.uk.

News 23/03/2017

Lectureship in Gravitational Wave Experiments

Jobs

The School of Physics and Astronomy and Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham invite applications for a permanent faculty position in gravitational-wave instrumentation and experiments at the Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer/ Reader level.

Applications from top researchers in all experimental areas relevant for gravitational-wave astronomy, including quantum optics, interferometry, quantum measurement, metrology and instrumentation are encouraged.

Full details can be found at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/jobs/index.aspx Use the post number 56792 to search current vacancies.

For further information and informal enquiries please contact:
Prof Andreas Freise (adf [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk) or
Prof Alberto Vecchio (av [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk).

The application deadline is 21 April 2017.

News 16/03/2017

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Issue 10 of the LIGO Magazine is available now, you can download the magazine (pdf file) at: http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

In this issue we look forward to a 'new season' of gravitational-wave astronomy: continuing the search for new signals with LIGO's second observing run, 'O2'. We begin with an overview of O2 and an interview, 'Getting ready for O2: A data analysis perspective', with gravitational-wave astronomers Sarah Caudill and Vivien Raymond when they were gearing up to begin analyzing the new data.

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.

News 10/02/2017

Astronomy in the City

AITC 2016

As the evenings are starting to get lighter, we are nearing the end of our season of Astronomy in the City. The final event will be on 8th March, details of the evenings and a link to book tickets are on our website

Alberto Sesana will speak about the Universes biggest black holes and how they evolve with their host galaxies. Please do remember to book tickets to avoid disappointment.

For those who have yet to attend, Astronomy in the City is a series of public events, each packed with astrophysics; stargazing, and tea and biscuits. Evenings begin with talks covering astronomical highlights and recent research, and a question-and-answer session (for everything from beginner's questions about the night sky to the latest work done here in Birmingham). Afterwards, (if the weather cooperates) we have observing with telescopes on campus, and a lucky few will be taken out to the University's Observatory.

The first talk begins at 6:00 pm, in the Large Lecture Theatre of the Poynting Physics Building on the University's Edgbaston campus. Please arrive by 5:55 pm to be entered into the ballot for trips to the Observatory. Visit from school or other groups are welcome, please get in touch if you have questions.

To keep up-to-date with the latest news and events (not just Astronomy in the City), please follow us on Twitter or Facebook. We'd love to see any of your pictures of the night sky too. The Astronomy in the City Team

News 24/11/2016

Postdoctoral Prize fellowships

Jobs Image

The Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, UK, invites applications for Postdoctoral Prize Fellowships.

The Institute's Postdoctoral Prize Fellowships provide top-calibre researchers with an opportunity to carry out an independent research program in any area connected to gravitational wave astronomy in a diverse, dynamic and collaborative group. Areas of particular strength in the group include experimental and theoretical physics with applications to future-generation detector design; data analysis for ground-based, space-borne, and pulsar-timing observatories; and theoretical astrophysics with a focus on gravitational-wave sources at all mass scales.

Applications from top researchers in all areas related to gravitational-wave astronomy, including instrumentation, quantum measurement, data analysis, astrostatistics, astronomical observations, astrophysics theory and general relativity are encouraged. Applications from Ph.D. holders with strong interdisciplinary connections (e.g., to optics, computer science, theoretical physics) or those with backgrounds in adjoint fields are welcome.

The appointment will be for a three-year term starting in 2017. The Prize Fellowship comes with a generous research and travel budget. The initial annual salary is in the range £29,301 to £38,183.

For full consideration, candidates must apply online at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/jobs/index.aspx (job reference 56253) and arrange for three letters of reference to be sent by the closing date to:

 Ms Joanne Cox
 School of Physics and Astronomy
 University of Birmingham
 Edgbaston B15 2TT
 United Kingdom
 E-mail: j.s.cox [at] bham.ac.uk 

For informal enquiries please contact: Prof. Alberto Vecchio (av [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk), Prof. Andreas Freise (a.freise [at] bham.ac.uk), or Prof. Ilya Mandel (imandel [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk).

News 09/11/2016

Astronomy in the City

AITC 2016

After a successful first installment of our Astronomy in the City season, we're pleased to announce that the next event will be on Wednesday 23 November. This month, our new Observatory Director, Sean McGee, will speak about his research in his talk Nature vs Nurture: The formation of galaxies. We'll also have our usual talk on the night sky, chance to ask questions, and (weather-dependent) observing. More details are on our site and tickets are available now from here

We would also like to advertise a special event being organised by the students of our AstroSoc: a talk by Prof. Cole Miller, who will be visiting from the University of Maryland, on the Mysteries of Black Holes. This will be on the evening of Thursday 12 January 2017 and (like Astronomy in the City) is free. If you are interested, please register here

For those who have yet to attend, Astronomy in the City is a series of public events, each packed with astrophysics; stargazing, and tea and biscuits. Evenings begin with talks covering astronomical highlights and recent research, and a question-and-answer session (for everything from beginner's questions about the night sky to the latest work done here in Birmingham). Afterwards, (if the weather cooperates) we have observing with telescopes on campus, and a lucky few will be taken out to the University?s Observatory.

Future events are planned for

The first talk begins at 6:00 pm, in the Large Lecture Theatre of the Poynting Physics Building on the University's Edgbaston campus. Please arrive by 5:55 pm to be entered into the ballot for trips to the Observatory. Visit from school or other groups are welcome, please get in touch if you have questions.

News 01/11/2016

Singing binaries: listening to the chirps of black holes

Inaugural Lecture

Professor Ilya Mandel, Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham

Will be giving his inaugural lecture on Wednesday 9 November 2016 starting at 5.15pm in Lecture Theatre 117, Physics West map ref. R8 , followed by a drinks reception in the Physics Library.

If you would like to attend, please visit this web site

In this lecture, Professor Mandel will discuss the detection of gravitational waves and explore the potential research opportunities arising from this revolutionary discovery. On September 14, 2015, the instruments of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected a disturbance. This tiny signal was the echo of a very loud song, sung by a pair of black holes merging more than a billion years ago during the last fraction of a second of their lives. This discovery heralded the conclusion of a decades-long search for one of the most difficult to test predictions of General Relativity, Einstein's theory of gravity.

At the same time, this black-hole song was the first note of a beautiful symphony to reach us through a newly opened window on the Universe. Through this window of gravitational-wave astronomy, we are already beginning to probe the secrets of strong-field gravity. In the next few years, we anticipate hearing many more songs coming from the mergers of compact remnants of massive stars: neutron stars and black holes. Like palaeontologists who use the skeletons of dinosaurs to discover what living dinosaurs looked like, we are beginning to study the evolutionary history of massive stars by observing their merging remnants.

News 02/09/2016

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Issue 9 of the LIGO Magazine is available now, you can download the magazine (pdf file) at: http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

In this issue Simon Stevenson looks at the astrophysical implications of this in 'Astrophysics with gravitational wave observations'. In 'The Making of Physics Fans', Joey Key and Martin Hendry describe the outreach and public engagement work around the detection announcements, and this issue also highlights a few examples of the many ongoing outreach activities, such as the collage of tweets about the detection, in 'The Glasgow Mosaic' by Chris Messenger and with 'Gravitational waves in the Science Museum' by Anna Green.

The main aim of the magazine, however, is not outreach as such but to provide information to the members of our collaboration. We often like to do this in the form of interviews and are pleased to feature two interviews in this issue, one with Stan Whitcomb and another with Peter Michelson.

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.

News 08/08/2016

Post-doctoral position in experimental Gravitational-Wave research at the University of Birmingham

The gravitational-wave group at the University of Birmingham invites applications for a post-doctoral position in the area of experimental gravitational-wave detection. The project will be to build a new radiation-pressure dominated optical apparatus on the 10cm size scale that is capable of prototyping novel uses of non-linear interaction such as internal squeezing and active filters. The initial aim is to test non-linear interactions with classical fields before moving towards the low-noise quantum-radiation-pressure regime.

The position is available from autumn/winter 2016 for an initial period of two years, with a possible one-year extension. The starting salary is in the £28,982 to £37,768. With potential progression once in post to £40,082 a year. Applicants with a background in gravitational-wave instrumentation, precision interferometry, and/or radiation-pressure opto-mechanics are welcome to apply.

The Birmingham gravitational-wave group has eight academic staff members: Will Farr, Andreas Freise, Ilya Mandel, Haixing Miao, Conor Mow-Lowry, Alberto Sesanna, Alberto Vecchio, and John Veitch. The group has a broad range of research interests including astrophysics, gravitational-wave observations and data analysis, and instrumentation and advanced interferometry.

For full consideration, candidates must apply online at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/jobs/index.aspx (use job reference 55612) The official post description can be found at: http://www.download.bham.ac.uk/vacancies/jd/55612.pdf

and arrange for three letters of reference to be sent by the closing date to:

 Mrs Joanne Cox
 School of Physics and Astronomy
 University of Birmingham
 Edgbaston B15 2TT
 United Kingdom
 E-mail: j.s.cox [at] bham.ac.uk

The deadline for application is Tuesday 30th August 2016.

For further information and informal enquiries please contact: Prof Andreas Freise (adf [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk) or Dr Conor Mow-Lowry (conor [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk).

News 03/08/2016

Birmingham's role in gravitational wave detection celebrated in Thinktank exhibit

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum is hosting a new exhibit, celebrating the role of Birmingham scientists in detecting gravitational waves, the globally significant finding that will help us to understand and explore the mysteries of our universe.

On 14 September 2015 at 10.50:45 UK time an international team of scientists, including those from the University of Birmingham, detected gravitational waves for the first time, using the twin LIGO instruments in the US.

Visitors will be able to interact with a model of the large gravitational wave detectors, using laser light to reveal tiny vibrations, and learn more about black holes and gravitational waves, through material prepared by students from the University of Birmingham.

Think Tank Exhinbit

Postgraduate student Hannah Middleton explained, "Birmingham has played a vital role in one of the biggest scientific discoveries of our lifetime! With this exhibit we want to share our excitement and make our work more accessible to the city, and the region."

Gravitational waves are generated by some of the most catastrophic, violent events occurring in the Universe, such as the collision of black holes. The gravitational waves detected on 14 September 2015 originated from two black holes, each around 30 times the mass of our Sun and located more than a billion light years from Earth, merging to form a single, more massive black hole. The discovery confirms one of the major predications of Albert Einstein's 1915 theory of general relativity.

Fellow postgraduate student Sam Cooper added, "The response we've had has been phenomenal. Gravitational waves hold so much information that will teach us about the origins of our Universe. Studying them could give us insight into the evolution of stars, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, neutron stars and black holes. This is a very exciting time for physicists."

TableTopInterferometer

Birmingham physicists built the hardware components now installed in the LIGO instruments, developed one of the main optical simulation tools, FINESSE, and have provided a significant contribution to the analysis of the LIGO data.

On 26 December 2015, LIGO recorded another gravitational wave signal, the second confirmed detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes.

Anna Green, a postgraduate student, said, "The second detection further confirms that we are, undoubtedly, at the dawn of a new era of astronomy. Hopefully this exhibit will inform and excite you, and perhaps even inspire the next generation of physicists and astronomers."

Lisa Stallard, Museum Manager at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, said: "We are delighted to display the gravitational waves exhibit at Thinktank in our Futures gallery, which will feature alongside other key technological developments to help visitors learn more about the exciting discoveries of the University of Birmingham team. "Having the gravitational waves exhibit at Thinktank serves as a reminder of the volume of significant scientific work undertaken within our region, and reflects our commitment to showcasing cutting edge research to as many people as possible.""

News 21/07/2016

Astrophysics PhD graduates

PhD 2016

At this year's degree ceremony in the Great Hall on July 11th, two of our talented postgraduate students were awarded their doctorate degrees by the chancellor Lord Bilimoria. Seen here in their Birmingham PhD robes are Dr. Maggie Lieu and Dr. Carl-Johan Haster with postgraduate students from the group. Carl-Johan's thesis was titled "Compact, diverse and efficient: globular cluster binaries and gravitational wave parameter estimation challenges  and can be found here. Carl-Johan is about to take up the position of postdoctoral Fellow at CITA (Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics),University of Toronto. Maggie's thesis titled "Cosmic Giants on Cosmic Scales can be found here B Maggie is about to take up a position as a Research Fellow at the European Space Agency.

News 10/03/2016

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Issue 8 of the LIGO Magazine is available now. This issue was prepared at the time when the scientific papers on the first detection of gravitational waves were still being written, and when most groups were working hard to prepare new material for the public announcement. We are very grateful to our contributors whose time and effort made it possible to now present some stories and images that you might not have seen before. Our title, the back cover and the several articles in the magazine are all about GW150914. In 'The Transition of Gravitational Physics - From Small to Big Sciencer' we complete Richard Isaacson' story on the origins of LIGO. And while we are celebrating the ground-based detection, in 'LISA Pathfinder: going operational' you can read more about our space adventures.

You can download the magazine (pdf file) at: http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.

News 02/03/2016

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City flyer

Thank you to everyone who has joined us at Astronomy in the City so far this season. We are delighted to see so many new people joining in, despite the ongoing bad luck with the weather! We appreciate your support.

Tickets have been available for the final event of our 2015/16 season on March 9th for a while now. We encourage you to get your tickets soon, because they always go quickly after we send an email announcement. Full details of the evening and a link to get your tickets are here

On March 9th we will have the fourth of our talks celebrating the 100th anniversary of General Relativity. Dr Graham Smith will speak about the bending of light, Einstein's greatest blunder, cosmic acceleration, and the exciting future of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Our new entry/ballot policy continues to help us make a prompt 6pm start, so we will continue with it in March. It is repeated here:

* Entry to the ballot for Observatory trips will close at 5:55pm.
* Anyone not entered into the ballot by that time will have their
* ticket checked manually and then be ushered swiftly into the lecture
* theatre.  So please try to arrive promptly, and accept our apologies
* if you're disappointed not to gain entry to the ballot.

News 12/02/2016

Gravitational Waves

Gravitational Wave Signal Image

On 14 September 2015 at 10.50:45 UK time, an international team of scientists including the University of Birmingham detected gravitational waves for the first time, using the twin LIGO instruments in Louisiana and Washington state in the US. The detection of these waves will help us to understand and explore the mysteries of our universe.

Confirming Einstein's theory

Gravitational waves are generated by some of the most catastrophic, violent motions occurring in the universe, such as the collision of black holes. The gravitational waves detected on 14 September 2015 originated from two black holes, each around 30 times the mass of our Sun and located more than a billion light years from Earth, merging to form a single, more massive black hole. The discovery confirms one of Albert Einstein¿s major predictions in his 1915 general theory of relativity.

Professor Alberto Vecchio, from the University of Birmingham, whose team has developed the techniques to extract the properties of the sources from the gravitational wave signatures, and has provided a significant contribution to the analysis of the LIGO data, said: "This observation is truly incredible science and marks three milestones for physics: the direct detection of gravitational waves, the first observation of a binary black hole, and the most convincing evidence to-date that Nature's black holes are the objects predicted by Einstein's theory."

Gravitational waves carry unique information about the origins of our Universe, and studying them is expected to provide important insights into the evolution of stars, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, neutron stars and black holes.

When a gravitational wave passes by the detector, it stretches and squeezes space-time by a tiny amount. The Advanced LIGO detectors use incredibly sensitive equipment to detect these ripples, indicating a gravitational wave. Gravitational waves require incredibly sensitive equipment to detect them; they have never been directly observed before, until now. The University of Birmingham has been involved in the Advanced LIGO project since its inception. Birmingham physicists have build hardware components now installed in the LIGO instruments, they developed one of the main optical simulation tools, FINESSE, and contributed significantly to the design and commissioning of modern gravitational wave detectors. The Birmingham group has developed the techniques essential to tease out the signatures of gravitational waves from the data and has provided a major contribution to the analysis of the LIGO data.

A better understanding of our universe

This discovery will open a new door on the cosmos and provides us with a better understanding of our universe, and its most violent manifestations. In the future LIGO may even pick up gravitational waves generated just a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

Professor Andreas Freise, from the University of Birmingham's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "It is amazing to think that we have been able to measure the echoes from the birth of a new black hole that happened more than a billion years ago¿ there was a 'disturbance in the gravitational force', and the LIGO detectors have felt it!"

The next leap

In the near future, the Advanced LIGO detectors will be increased to full power, boosting their sensitivity to gravitational waves, which will allow more distant events to be discovered. With increasingly sensitive instruments and new detectors to be constructed in other locations around the world, this first detection is surely just the beginning. Soon we may discover things we don't even know we don't know yet.

News 15/01/2016

Postdoctoral Research Position

Jobs Image

The Astrophysics and Space Research Group at the University of Birmingham invites applications for a postdoctoral position in extragalactic astrophysics. The successful candidate will complement and expand existing research activities within the extragalactic group. Applications are particularly encouraged within the areas of galaxy formation and evolution, gravitational lensing, and the epoch of re-ionization. Observational studies of galaxy evolution at the University of Birmingham focus on the role of environment, and exploit multi-wavelength surveys such as GOGREEN (a Gemini Large spectroscopic survey of high redshift galaxy groups and clusters), GEEC/GEEC2, LoCuSS and XXL. The successful candidate will have an opportunity to make a major contribution to these and other surveys.  Candidates interested in numerical extragalactic astrophysics, and future exploitation of facilities including Euclid and LSST are also encouraged to apply.

Funding for this position is expected to begin on April 1, 2016, with preferred start date as soon as possible after this. The appointment will be made for three years.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Sean McGee (smcgee[at]star.sr.bham.ac.uk).

Information about the Astrophysics and Space Research Group is available at www.sr.bham.ac.uk

To apply, applicants should send a curriculum vitae, publication list and brief statement of research interests to exgal_postdoc[at]star.sr.bham.ac.uk. In addition, applicants should also arrange to have three letters of recommendation sent to the the same email address (exgal_postdoc[at]star.sr.bham.ac.uk).

The closing date for applications and reference letters is March 1, 2016.

News 04/01/2016

XXL Hunt for Galaxy Clusters

X-ray image of the XXL-South Field

ESO telescopes have provided an international team of astronomers with the gift of the third dimension in a plus-sized hunt for the largest gravitationally bound structures in the Universe - galaxy clusters. Observations by the VLT and the NTT complement those from other observatories across the globe and in space as part of the XXL survey - one of the largest ever such quests for clusters.

Galaxy clusters are massive congregations of galaxies that host huge reservoirs of hot gas - the temperatures are so high that X-rays are produced. These structures are useful to astronomers because their construction is believed to be influenced by the Universe's notoriously strange components - dark matter and dark energy. By studying their properties at different stages in the history of the Universe, galaxy clusters can shed light on the Universe's poorly understood dark side.

The team, consisting of over 100 astronomers from around the world, started a hunt for the cosmic monsters in 2011. Although the high-energy X-ray radiation that reveals their location is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, it can be detected by X-ray observatories in space. Thus, they combined an ESA XMM-Newton survey - the largest time allocation ever granted for this orbiting telescope - with observations from ESO and other observatories. The result is a huge and growing collection of data across the electromagnetic spectrum, collectively called the XXL survey.

Birmingham astronomers are responsible for measuring the mass of galaxy clusters discovered in the XXL survey. Their first results are described by Lieu et al. and Ziparo et al. in a special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

News 03/12/2015

Lift-off for LISA Pathfinder

Lisa Pathfinder Science Module and Solar Array

The space mission 'LISA Pathfinder' was launched successfully on December 3rd 2015 from the Kourou spaceport, French Guinea. LISA Pathfinder is a technology demonstrator paving the way for a space-based gravitational wave detector LISA. LISA Pathfinder's mission is to prove that it can shield two free-falling metal cubes from all internal and external forces better than any other spacecraft ever flown. This means flying in space to within an accuracy of a few billionths of a metre (nanometre), and being able to sense the relative positions of the metal cubes to within a trillionth of a metre (picometre) over the bandwidth of interest.

Over the next two weeks, the spacecraft will reach the orbit's highest point in six critical burns. The spacecraft will arrive at its operational orbit, near the L1 Lagrange point, 1.5 million km from Earth in the direction of the Sun, eight weeks after launch. Nominal operations will last six months; an extension of six months is possible.

University of Birmingham physicists were involved in the design and build of the Phasemeter - the electronic system which measures the separation between the two test masses linked by laser beams. For more information, visit the ESA LISA Pathfinder webpage.




News 30/10/2015

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City flyer

We invite you to attend our programme of free public events, "Astronomy in the City". Join us for stargazing, observing with portable telescopes, observatory visits to use our half metre telescope, talks from our experts about cutting edge astronomy research, and your chance to ask them anything about astronomy!

Tickets for our next event on Wednesday November 25th 5:30 pm - 10 pm are available here. Booking is essential!!!

Please note that due to restricted space, only a limited number of visitors are able to visit the Observatory at each event.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein's general relativity, our best theory of gravity. General relativity is central to much of modern astrophysics (including research we do here), explaining everything from black holes to the expansion of the Universe itself. To celebrate, each Astronomy in the City will feature a themed talk, covering an aspect of general relativity, including the most violent explosions in the Universe, the mysterious dark energy and Nature's biggest black holes. We hope you are as excited as we are! This month, Carl-Johan Haster will be telling us about the most energetic explosions in the Universe.

Our winter events are November 25th 2015, January 17th 2016 and March 9th 2016. Please join our mailing list to to keep up to date.

News 08/10/2015

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City flyer

We invite you to attend our programme of free public events, "Astronomy in the City". Join us for stargazing, observing with portable telescopes, observatory visits to use our half metre telescope, talks from our experts about cutting edge astronomy research, and your chance to ask them anything about astronomy!

Tickets for our next event on Wednesday October 14th October 2015 are now sold out !!!

Please note that due to restricted space, only a limited number of visitors are able to visit the Observatory at each event.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein's general relativity, our best theory of gravity. General relativity is central to much of modern astrophysics (including research we do here), explaining everything from black holes to the expansion of the Universe itself. To celebrate, each Astronomy in the City will feature a themed talk, covering an aspect of general relativity, including the most violent explosions in the Universe, the mysterious dark energy and Nature's biggest black holes. We hope you are as excited as we are! This month, Christopher Berry will be introducing Einstein's greatest idea.

Our winter events are November 25th 2015, January 17th 2016 and March 9th 2016. Please join our mailing list to to keep up to date.

News 07/09/2015

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Issue 7 of the LIGO Magazine is available now. This is an exciting year with the first science run of the new LIGO detectors to begin soon, providing new data to analyse and to search! In "Looking for the Afterglow" and "A Tale of Astronomers and Physicists" we explore the connections between gravitational wave detection and electromagnetic astronomy. Working closer with other astronomers will bring its own interesting challenges. "Adventures of an Observational Astronomer" presents a brief glimpse into a different scientific routine.

We are proud to feature an interview with Joseph Taylor, one of the winners of the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of the first binary pulsar, PSR B1913+16.

You can download the magazine (pdf file) at: http://www.ligo.org/magazine/ The webpage has a new layout to make it easier to find particular articles in previous issues of the magazine.

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.

News 10/05/2015

Professor Andreas Freise's Inaugural Lecture

Inaugural Lecture

Shining a Light on Black Holes
Professor Andreas Freise
Professor of Experimental Physics
School of Physics and Astronomy
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Location Lecture Theatre 117, Physics West Building, followed by a drinks reception in the Physics Library

Date Wednesday 13 May 2015 (5:15pm)

Synopsis

When black holes collide, their enormous gravitational forces create ripples in the fabric of space and time. Although Einstein predicted the existence of these gravitational waves, he was certain that they could never be detected.

Advances in technology, from lasers to modern quantum optics, have fundamentally changed the way we design precision instruments. Measuring a gravitational wave is now a possibility, while remaining one of the greatest challenges in experimental physics. The task is to detect tiny changes in the distance between two objects, a change that is 100,000 times smaller than the core of an atom. Over several decades a new type of laser interferometer has been developed, and several kilometre long gravitational-wave detectors have been constructed around the world.

Now, almost exactly a hundred years after Einstein's predictions, two detectors are beginning to operate with high enough sensitivity to make the first detection of a gravitational wave, exceeding Einstein's imagination. Professor Freise will talk about an extraordinary journey in experimental physics and the invention of new laser instruments to look into the skies and listen for the echoes of black holes and dying stars.



News 20/03/2015

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Following the examples of other large science projects we decided to create the LIGO Magazine, a regular publication to exchange information, news and stories from and with the LSC community. The sixth issue is now available and features the H1 detector in Hanford; the article "Detector Commissioning: Control Room Day and Nights" tells the story of ongoing commissioning work. We learn about the life around the LIGO Hanford site, for example with some beautiful hiking images in "When we're not doing science." The article "The Transition of Gravitational Physics - From Small to Big Science" represents this issue's second main feature, starting a series that will look back at the beginnings of LIGO.

We believe that the magazine is also a good way to find out more about LIGO and the gravitational wave community, and to satisfy your general interest in science and technology. Therefore the magazine is available as a free download (pdf file) at http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.



News 26/02/2015

BritGrav 15, Birmingham

BritGrav 2015 poster

The 15th British Gravity (BritGrav) Meeting will be held on 20-21 April 2015 at the University of Birmingham, organised by the Gravitational Physics Group.

The meeting covers all areas of gravity, classical and quantum, including astrophysics, cosmology, mathematical general relativity, gravitational-wave data analysis and instrumentation. It is intended to bring together the entire gravitational research community to further collaboration and allow young researchers to showcase their work.

We hope that all interested graduate students and post-docs will be able to give talks; there shall be talks by others if time allows. There is a prize for the best student talk sponsored by Classical & Quantum Gravity.

There is no conference fee, but participants are responsible for their own accommodation, meals and travel. Financial support for students from British or Irish institutions is available courtesy of the IOP. Tea and coffee will be provided in breaks.

For further details please see the BritGrav 15 web site








News 17/02/2015

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City flyer

We invite you to attend our programme of free public events, "Astronomy in the City". Join us for stargazing, observing with portable telescopes, observatory visits to use our half metre telescope, talks from our experts about cutting edge astronomy research, and your chance to ask them anything about astronomy!

Tickets for our next event on Wednesday 25th February 2015 are available via our web site.

Please note that due to restricted space, only a limited number of visitors are able to visit the Observatory at each event.

Upcoming Events

This event is part of our 2015 programme, held on the last Wednesday of the month - February 25th and March 25th. Please join our mailing list to keep up to date.

February Programme

This month Simon, one of our PhD students, will talk about observing black holes. What do we do after massive stars explode as brilliant supernovae, and then die as black holes, vanishing from traditional telescopes? With a gravitational-wave observatory, the story is just beginning...

Join us for this exciting talk as well as our popular regulars: observatory trips, observing on campus, March's night sky, and "Ask the expert".



News 08/01/2015

Birmingham Nottingham extragalactic workshop 2015

Extragalactic Workshop 2015 poster

The Birmingham Nottingham extragalactic workshop series consists of informal 2-day events, involving typically ~50 participants, with the aim of bringing together researchers in related strands of research in a topical and well-focussed area of extragalactic astronomy.

This year's topic is Cosmic Overdensities through Cosmic Time. We will review recent progress in our understanding of galaxy groups and clusters back to z=2, and discuss what observational, theoretical, and algorithm developments are required to take full advantage of the exciting opportunities post-2020, including LSST.

For further details please see the Extragalactic workshop website








News 08/12/2014

BritGrav 15, Birmingham

BritGrav 2015 poster

The 15th British Gravity (BritGrav) Meeting will be held on 20-21 April 2015 at the University of Birmingham, organised by the Gravitational Physics Group.

The meeting covers all areas of gravity, classical and quantum, including astrophysics, cosmology, mathematical general relativity, gravitational-wave data analysis and instrumentation. It is intended to bring together the entire gravitational research community to further collaboration and allow young researchers to showcase their work.

We hope that all interested graduate students and post-docs will be able to give talks; there shall be talks by others if time allows. There is a prize for the best student talk sponsored by Classical & Quantum Gravity.

There is no conference fee, but participants are responsible for their own accommodation, meals and travel. Financial support for students from British or Irish institutions is available courtesy of the IOP. Tea and coffee will be provided in breaks.

For further details please see the BritGrav 15 web site















News 24/11/2014

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City flyer

We invite you to attend our programme of free public events, "Astronomy in the City". Join us for stargazing, observing with portable telescopes, observatory visits to use our half metre telescope, talks from our experts about cutting edge astronomy research, and your chance to ask them anything about astronomy!

Astronomy in the City events are strictly all ticket, and begin in the Poynting Building on our Edgbaston campus, within easy reach of local transport links.

Please note that due to restricted space, only a limited number of visitors are able to visit the Observatory at each event.

Upcoming Events

Our next event is Wednesday December 3rd 2014, 6-10pm. Booking essential!
This event is part of our 2014 programme, held on the second Wednesday of the month - October 8th, November 12th and December 3rd. Please join our mailing list to keep up to date.

December Programme



News 28/08/2014

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Following the examples of other large science projects we decided to create the LIGO Magazine, a regular publication to exchange information, news and stories from and with the LSC community. The fifth issue is now available, with more than 30 pages of entertaining stories and fascinating photos from the installation of the Advanced LIGO detectors.

We believe that the magazine is also a good way to find out more about LIGO and the gravitational wave community, and to satisfy your general interest in science and technology. Therefore the magazine is available as a free download (pdf file) at http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.



News 01/03/2014

Marie Curie Fellow

Haixing Miao

Haixing Miao has been awarded a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship to work at the University of Birmingham on "Exploring quantum aspects of gravitational wave detectors" from March 2014

Haixing's research will be studying the role of quantum mechanics in determining the fundamental limitation to the sensitivity of gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. Making use of the knowledge on numerical modelling and instrumentation from his colleagues in the GW research group, such a study will lead to new techniques for enhancing sensitivities of existing advanced GW detectors, and also provide guidance for research and development for quantum-limited measurements.








News 27/02/2014

Faculty Position

Jobs Image

The School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham invites applications for a tenured faculty position in Astrophysics at the Lectureship level, or exceptionally at a higher level.

The Astrophysics Group has a wide range of research activities, spanning theory, observations and instrumentation. Research areas include galactic and extra-galactic astrophysics, gravitational lensing and cosmology, exoplanets, and gravitational-wave science.

The Astrophysics group consists of 11 academic staff, 8 postdoctoral research staff, 22 postgraduate students and 4 technical and support staff. The group is one of the eight research groups active in the School of Physics and Astronomy, which counts about 40 permanent academic staff. The group has a strong track record of research grant funding. It is supported by an STFC consolidated grant, and a variety of other grants from several sources, such as STFC, EPSRC, EC and the Leverhulme Trust. Members of the group play important roles in major international efforts and collaborations, such as the Euclid Consortium, XXL, LoCuSS, GAMA, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the GEO Collaboration, the European and International Pulsar Timing Array Collaboration, and the Einstein gravitational-wave Telescope. Excellent technical facilities for the design, construction and testing of space- and ground-based instrumentation support the strong experimental programme in the area of gravity and gravitational waves. Computing infrastructure includes a computer cluster for gravitational-wave research and access to the University-wide BlueBear high-performance cluster.

The appointment is expected to complement and expand existing research activities. We encourage especially applications in the areas of extra-galactic astrophysics, cosmology and gravitational-wave instrumentation, but exceptional individuals in any field will be considered. The successful applicant will also contribute to the School's undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Professor Alberto Vecchio (av [at] star.sr.bham.ac.uk).

The closing date for applications is 31 March 2014.

Applications should be made by completing the on-line application form at http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/jobs/, post number 13866.

Candidates must also submit a research statement and arrange for three letters of reference to be sent, by the closing date, to:
Miss Joanne Cox
School of Physics and Astronomy
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston B15 2TT
United Kingdom
Email: j.s.cox [at] bham.ac.uk

News 11/02/2014

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City poster

We invite you to attend the second of our "Astronomy in the City", series of free public events, on February 26, 2014.

The University of Birmingham Observatory team invite you to attend our programme of free public events, "Astronomy in the City". Journey with us from star gazing all the way to exploring the night sky with our powerful new telescope. Along the way, members of the University's AstroSoc, and the Birmingham Astronomical Society (BAS) will show you how to use their portable telescopes. Tours of our Observatory, including observing with our research telescope will also be offered. Our experts will be on hand to answer your questions throughout the evening, and in a special "Ask the Expert" session. The event starts in the Poynting Building on our Edgbaston campus, within easy reach of local transport links. We can accommodate small groups of upto 8 visitors at a time at our Observatory. We will therefore operate a ballot system on the night, with a likely maximum of 40 people able to visit the Observatory.

The event starts in the Poynting Building on our Edgbaston campus, within easy reach of local transport links.

Provisional Programme:

This is an all ticket event. Admission is only available to people with a ticket. Further information and tickets are available via our web-site

We look forward to meeting many of you in February!





News 05/12/2013

Astronomy in the City

Astronomy in the City poster

We invite you to attend the opening night of "Astronomy in the City", our new series of free public events, on January 29, 2014.

Journey with us from star gazing, all the way to exploring the night sky with our powerful new telescope. Along the way, members of the University's Astrosoc, and the Birmingham Astronomy Society (BAS) will show you how to use their portable telescopes. Tours of our Observatory, including observing with our research telescope will also be offered. Our experts will be on hand to answer your questions throughout the evening, and in a special "Ask the Expert" session.

The event starts in the Poynting Building on our Edgbaston campus, within easy reach of local transport links.

Provisional Programme:

This is an all ticket event. Admission is only available to people with a ticket. Further information and tickets are available via our web-site

We look forward to meeting many of you in January!





News 06/11/2013

The University of Birmingham opens its new telescope to the public

University of Birmingham Observatory

A new era of astronomy starts at the University of Birmingham this month, when students and researchers start to observe the night sky with a new state-of-the-art telescope located at the University’s observatory on the outskirts of the city.

The new telescope, which is the most powerful within 50 miles of Birmingham, will revolutionize the learning opportunities for students, and will also be available for the community and local astronomy groups to use.

The Observatory has been part of the Birmingham student experience since the 1980s and has been used by generations of undergraduate students on the University’s renowned Physics and Astrophysics degree programme.

With a diameter of half a meter, and high quality optical design matching that of professional research telescopes, the new telescope is the most powerful telescope within easy reach of the West Midlands community. Dr Graham Smith, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Observatory said " This is a major landmark for astronomy and science in the West Midlands, I encourage our community -- students, and members of the public alike -- to make the most of this wonderful investment. I’m looking forward to developing links with the West Midlands community in the years ahead."

The University of Birmingham Observatory (UBO) will launch a brand new programme of Public Astronomy Nights starting in January 2014. These events will include the opportunity to visit the Observatory and to use the new telescope. Details will be announced in December 2013 via the Observatory website. The public may also follow the Observatory on Twitter, and sign up for future email updates by emailing their name to ubo-signup@star.sr.bham.ac.uk

News 14/06/2013

Cosmic giants shed new light on dark matter

Subaru Telescope

Astronomers at the University of Birmingham, Academica Sinica in Taiwan, and the Kavli Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan, have found new evidence that the mysterious dark matter that pervades our universe behaves as predicted by the ’cold dark matter’ theory known as ’CDM’.

At a press conference in Taipei the team of astronomers report their measurements of the density of dark matter in the most massive objects in the universe, namely galaxy clusters. They found that the density of dark matter decreases gently from the centre of these cosmic giants out to their diffuse outskirts. The fall in dark matter density from the centre to the outskirts agrees very closely with the CDM theory.

Almost eighty years after the first evidence for dark matter emerged from astronomy research, few scientists seriously doubt that it exists. However astronomers cannot see dark matter directly in the night sky, and particle physicists have not yet identified the dark matter particle in their experiments.

’What is dark matter?’ is therefore a big unanswered question facing astronomers and particle physicists, especially because there is strong evidence that 85% of the mass in the universe is invisible dark matter.

The team, led by Dr Nobuhiro Okabe (Academia Sinica) and Dr Graham Smith (Birmingham), used the Subaru telescope in Hawaii to investigate the nature of dark matter by measuring its density in fifty galaxy clusters, the most massive objects in the Universe.

The density of dark matter in galaxy clusters was measured using the effect of gravitational lensing. As predicted by Einstein, gravitational lensing is the change in the direction and shape of a light beam as it travels through the curved space close to a massive object. The apparent shape and position of distant galaxies that astronomers observe are therefore altered by the dark matter in cosmic giants.

What does the future hold for the team’s continued research on dark matter? Smith noted ’We don’t stop here. For example, we can improve our work by measuring the dark matter density on even smaller scales - right in the centre of these galaxy clusters. Adding measurements on smaller scales will help us to learn more about dark matter in the future.’

For more information, please see the LOCUSS web site and the University of Birmingham press release

News 21/03/2013

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Following the examples of other large science projects we decided to create the LIGO Magazine, a regular publication to exchange information, news and stories from and with the LSC community. The second issue is now available, with more than 30 pages of entertaining stories and fascinating photos from the installation of the Advanced LIGO detectors.

We believe that the magazine is also a good way to find out more about LIGO and the gravitational wave community, and to satisfy your general interest in science and technology. Therefore the magazine is available as a free download (pdf file) at http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.



News 26/02/2013

Postdoctoral Research Position

Jobs Image

Applications are invited for a STFC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow position in the Astrophysics and Space Research Group at the University of Birmingham.

Gravitational-wave astrophysics and data analysis

The Gravitational-Wave Group at the University of Birmingham invites applications for a post-doctoral position in the area of gravitational-wave astrophysics and data analysis, with emphasis on compact-object binary systems.

Applicants with a background in gravitational-wave physics, astronomy/astrophysics, theoretical and/or numerical relativity and data analysis are welcome to apply.

The Birmingham Gravitational-wave Group consists of faculty members Will Farr (from 1st October 2013), Andreas Freise, Ilya Mandel and Alberto Vecchio, four postdoctoral research associates and nine post-graduate students. The group has a broad range of research interests including compact object astrophysics, gravitational-wave observations and data analysis, instrumentation and advanced interferometry. The group is member of the GEO Collaboration, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and the European Pulsar Timing Array Collaboration. The group has excellent laboratory and computer facilities.

For further information see here

News 04/01/2013

Postdoctoral Research Positions

Jobs Image

Applications are invited for three STFC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow positions in the Astrophysics and Space Research Group at the University of Birmingham.

Galaxy groups and clusters

Two fellows will work on a joint observational and theoretical programme to investigate the astrophysics and mass function of galaxy groups and clusters to z~1, and the impact of selection biases on our understanding. Observational data for this programme come from international multi-wavelength surveys, in which Birmingham faculty are prominent, including XXL, LoCuSS and GAMA. Ongoing observations during the funding period include X-ray follow-up, deep DECam weak-lensing observations, and near-infrared observations at UKIRT and CFHT. On the theoretical side we have close links with simulators, including those responsible for the OWLS simulation, and its "Cosmo-OWLS" successor.

Relevant skills and interests for these positions include: X-ray data analysis, faint galaxy shape measurement for weak-lensing, strong/weak gravitational lens modelling, intra-cluster light measurement, dynamical mass analysis, and testing observational analysis/modelling methods using simulations. Candidates with observing experience over a range of wavelengths are also encouraged to apply. A PhD in astronomy or physics is required.

For further information see here

Gravitational-wave astrophysics and data analysis

The Gravitational-Wave Group at the University of Birmingham invites applications for a post-doctoral position in the area of gravitational-wave astrophysics and data analysis, with emphasis on compact-object binary systems.

Applicants with a background in gravitational-wave physics, astronomy/astrophysics, theoretical and/or numerical relativity and data analysis are welcome to apply.

The Birmingham Gravitational-wave Group consists of faculty members Will Farr (from 1st October 2013), Andreas Freise, Ilya Mandel and Alberto Vecchio, four postdoctoral research associates and nine post-graduate students. The group has a broad range of research interests including compact object astrophysics, gravitational-wave observations and data analysis, instrumentation and advanced interferometry. The group is member of the GEO Collaboration, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and the European Pulsar Timing Array Collaboration. The group has excellent laboratory and computer facilities.

For further information see here

News 12/10/2012

LIGO Magazine

LIGO Magazine

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is supported by an international group of more than 800 scientists from about 80 institutions, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration LSC. Birmingham is contributing to the development, operation and science exploitation of Advanced LIGO, the most sensitive, kilometer-sized gravitational wave observatory in the world.

Following the examples of other large science projects we decided to create the LIGO Magazine, a regular publication to exchange information, news and stories from and with the LSC community. The inaugural issue is now available, with more than 30 pages of entertaining stories and fascinating photos from the installation of the Advanced LIGO detectors.

We believe that the magazine is also a good way to find out more about LIGO and the gravitational wave community, and to satisfy your general interest in science and technology. Therefore the magazine is available as a free download (pdf file) at http://www.ligo.org/magazine/

We hope you find it inspiring and entertaining. Let us know what you think and do tell your friends and colleagues by forwarding this link to them.





News 19/03/2012

The first 'Garden Variety' Black Hole Discovered outside our local Neighbourhood!

Cen A

Black holes are everywhere. There's a supermassive one at the heart of each large galaxy, and millions of ordinary stellar-mass ones sprinkled throughout each galaxy, if our theories of stellar evolution are correct. yet, they are notoriously difficult to detect, since they don't emit any light. If found, generally as a consequence of its intense gravity, it is very difficult to establish a cosmic source as a black hole. Consequently, most known black holes are of rather exotic varieties- they are either ultra-luminous sources, due to their overwhelmingly hungry accretion, or they could have masses comparable to the most massive stars.

Yet, in our own galaxy, and in those in our immediate neighbourhood (the Local group), researchers have started to establish the existence of the ordinary garden variety black holes, belonging to the most commonly occurring mass range, and detectable in X-ray binary systems, accreting at a fraction of their Eddington luminosity . So far, such "ordinary" black holes have not been found and studied in detail outside the Local group.

Cen A

Analysing data from six 100 ks Chandra observations of giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, PhD student Mark Burke, under the supervision of Somak Raychaudhury at the University of Birmingham, and working with an international team led by Ralph Kraft of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, detected an object 50,000 times the brightness of our sun. A month after the initial detection, the source had dimmed by more than a factor of 10, and subsequently 100; disappearing beneath our ability to detect. This behaviour is characteristic of a black hole low mass X-ray binary during the final stages of outburst, an assertion supported further by the results of X-ray spectral fitting. It is likely that this source is the best candidate for a 'conventional' black hole low mass X-ray binary outside of the Local Group, and is more typical of stellar mass black holes we observe in our own galaxy.

The yellow arrow in the picture identifies the position of the black hole transient inside Cen A. The location of the object is coincident with gigantic dust lanes that obscure visible and X-ray light from large regions of Cen A. Other interesting X-ray features include the central AGN, powerful relativistic jet and a large lobe that covers most of the lower-right of the image. There is also a lot of hot gas. In the image, red indicates low energy, green represents medium energy, and blue represents high energy light.

The paper, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, where we present these results, can be found here. For more information, please contact Mark Burke.

News 17/10/2011

Coriolis launch 2003
The picture above shows the launch
of the Coriolis spacecraft in 2003

Solar Mass Ejection Imager mission operations come to an end!

On 28th September 2011, the Solar Mass Ejection Imager (SMEI) instrument aboard the US Navy Coriolis spacecraft was switched off and mission operations ceased after nearly 8 years of successful operation in orbit.

The SMEI instrument was largely designed and built at the Astrophysics and Space Research Group with funding from the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Birmingham, and was launched aboard Coriolis on 6th January 2003.

SMEI consists of 3 wide-angle optical cameras which are mounted on the spacecraft so that during each orbit they sweep around the sky enabling an image of the entire sky, with the exception of a fairly small region around the Sun, to be recorded. The main scientific objective of SMEI was to detect Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), vast clouds of diffuse plasma erupting out of the solar corona which, if they impact with the Earth, can cause damage to satellites, disrupt radio communications, produce large-scale outages on terrestrial power distribution systems and other undesirable effects of "space weather".

SMEI All sky image

The picture shows an "all-sky" image obtained by SMEI. The entire Milky Way is visible, together with the zodiacal light surrounding the Sun, the Magellanic Clouds (near the bottom of the image), and the Pleiades and Orion's Belt (close to the left side). In addition to detecting and tracking many hundreds of CMEs, SMEI has produced many other important scientific results and discoveries, including observations of high altitude aurorae, variable stars and novae, and comets and cometary tail interactions.

For further information see:

Birmingham University SMEI site

US Airforce SMEI site

UCSD Solar and Heliospheric Physics Archive

News 14/09/2011

GEO 600 Site
The picture above shows an aerial view of the
L-shaped GEO 600 detector (the detector arms
have been marked with red colour).

Squeezed light gives gravitational wave detector a boost in sensitivity

Gravitational wave detectors are looking for tiny ripples in space time, by monitoring the distance between kilogram-sized masses with a laser beam. The detectors' extreme sensitivity make them "see" some of the fundamental properties of the instrument itself, such as the thermal fluctuations of the atoms in the test mass, or the quantum fluctuations in the laser light. The latter is called `shotnoise' and poses a limit to the sensitivity of current detectors.

With the `squeezed light' method scientists from the GEO 600 collaboration use quantum physics in order to reduce the effect of shotnoise. This new type of laser light developed by scientists from the Max Planck Society and the Leibniz Universität Hannover improves the measuring accuracy of the gravitational wave detector GEO 600 by around 50 percent and thus increases its effective sensitivity. This is the first time this technology has been used outside of a test laboratory anywhere in the world. The results are published in the specialist journal Nature Physics.

The squeezed light laser has been undergoing a longer test phase since April last year at GEO 600 and is now being used in the search for gravitational waves. The application of squeezed light technology has thus passed the acid test. Our American colleagues plan to soon test a squeezed laser on the LIGO detectors

News 09/09/2011

supernova

Supernova in Ursa Major

On August 23rd a star in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) perished in a supernova explosion. At 21 million light-years from Earth this is the closest star explosion of its type observed since 1986. The object, SN 2011fe, has brightened so much that it is now possible to view with binoculars ([instructions on how to observe]). On 8th September, astronomers (Dr Samuel George, Elizabeth George and Richard Pearson) using the University of Birmingham Observatory on a cloudy night managed to take an image of the galaxy clearly showing the supernova (as indicated by the arrow ):











before and after

We took a [colour image of M101] a while back and here (on a similar scale/rotation) is a comparison pre-and-post-supernova:









News 22/08/2011

Brian Cox

Astronomy and physics are cool!

Applications for physics courses at university have risen by more than 17% on last year and astronomy is up by an even more impressive 40%. This is probably due to the combination of excitement and good job prospects offered by these challenging subjects, as discussed in the this BBC News article .





News 10/06/2011

Einstein Telescope Impression

Design study for large new European gravitational wave project sparks media interest.

On the 20th of May scientists from all over Europe presented a design study for an advanced observatory capable of making precision measurements of gravitational waves minute ripples in the fabric of spacetime: The Einstein Observatory (ET) is a so-called third-generation gravitational-wave detector, which will be 100 times more sensitive than current instruments.

The presentation of the 500 pages design study report has sparked great interest from national and international media, see, for example, the news coverage from Nature, Science and Physics World:

The Birmingham Gravitational Wave Group is centred on the observation of the universe in the gravitational wave band, and on testing gravity at new scales. The group is a member of the GEO collaboration and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and has played a leading role in the design of the Einstein Telescope. Further links:

News 08/04/2011

Poster Awarde

Phase effects in gaussian beams in diffraction gratings

We would like to congratulate our student Deepali Lodhia who was awarded the prize for the best poster at the recent LIGO-VIRGO conference, the collaboration meeting between the LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave detectors, which was held in Arcadia - California on March 13-18, 2011.

More than 300 scientist from all the world attended this conference and about 50 posters were presented on all different subjects of research, from instrumental science to data analysis and astrophysics. Here you can see a picture of Deepali presenting the poster!





News 22/03/2011

AWM4 image

Enriching the Intracluster Medium

Galaxies are typically found in groups or clusters, some of which have several hundred members, surrounded by a halo of hot, X-ray emitting gas. Giant elliptical galaxies are often found at the centres of these clusters, and the supermassive black holes in their cores are believed to play a vital role in governing the state of the hot halo. As material is drawn into the black hole, jets of relativistic plasma can be thrown out far beyond the galaxy, colliding with and heating the surrounding gas, and lifting material out of the galaxy to mix with the halo.

Birmingham astronomers Ewan O'Sullivan and Somak Raychaudhury, working with colleagues in the USA, have used a combination of deep Chandra X-ray data and low-frequency radio observations from the Indian Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope to examine this process around the elliptical galaxy NGC 6051, in the poor cluster AWM 4. The image to the right shows the galaxies (and foreground stars) in white, X-rays from the hot gas halo in blue, and radio emission from the jets thrown out by the black hole in red. The jets extend about one hundred thousand light years from the black hole, and have taken about 170 million years to grow to this size. Gas from the central elliptical, enriched with Iron and other elements produced by supernovae, has been transported out of the galaxy by the jets, mixing with the surrounding halo. Around a million solar masses of Iron has been lifted out of the galaxy during the current phase of jet activity, and it seems likely that this type of gas mixing has an important influence on the development of many groups and clusters of galaxies in the nearby Universe.

For more information, see the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Weekly Science Update on AWM 4, or the two published papers.

News 11/03/2011

Space Time Quest

Space Time Quest is here !

Design your own gravitational wave detector and see whether you can beat the experts!

Space Time Quest is a manager-simulation type game. The player can use a limited budget to design a gravitational wave detector. The goal is to maximise the sensitivity by adjusting several subsystem parameters correctly. This game has been developed as part of our outreach programme in the Gravitational Wave Group; our aim was to create a fun game that is easy to play, looks good and gives some insight into the complexity of gravitational wave detectors.

Get the game and more info here

At the moment the game does not come with much explanation; however a simple 'how to play' video is available here here

For news and updates about the game and related activities, follow us on twitter

News 02/03/2011

STEREO Sun

Seeing the Sun from all Angles

A unique 360° view of the Sun was unveiled on Sunday 6 February 2011 (so-called “super Sun-day”) when NASA’s two STEREO spacecraft were aligned exactly opposite each other on either side of the Sun. The spacecraft were launched in October 2006 and have been progressively been moving away from the Earth in their respective orbits around the Sun.

All the camera systems on board the spacecraft were built and tested in the Astrophysics and Space Research Group of the School of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with colleagues at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The image opposite is a composite of images taken in the extreme-ultraviolet by cameras on the two spacecraft, showing the far side of the Sun.

The 360° coverage from STEREO is enhanced by NASA's recently-launched SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) mission which images the Sun in high resolution, from a near-Earth orbit. As the STEREO probes continue flying around the far side of the Sun, an area of unseen solar territory on the near side will increase, but SDO's cameras will play a vital role in filling this gap and ensuring that we can view the entire solar surface for a number of years to come.

These unprecedented images can perhaps be likened to the first images of the far side of the Moon taken some 50 years ago. However, in many ways the significance for mankind is probably much greater because of the effect that the Sun and "space weather" can potentially have on our advanced technological society by damaging satellites, disrupting communications, etc. Having the ability to image the entire disk of the Sun, including the far side, will enable us to continually monitor solar active regions, sunspots and solar flares, etc as they rotate around the Sun and hence improve our understanding of solar activity and our ability to predict space weather.

For further information see:

Birmingham University News

STFC STEREO website

NASA STEREO website

News 10/02/2011

OWLS cluster animation

Cosmic feedback and galaxy groups

Most of the normal atomic matter in the Universe appears to be hot, with a temperature exceeding 100,000 K. The reason for the high temperature of most of this material is believed to be "cosmic feedback": energetic jets from supermassive black holes and galaxy-scale winds powered by supernova explosions heat the surrounding gas. Understanding these complex feedback processes is one of the biggest challenges in astrophysics.

We are attacking this problem in a collaboration with Dr. Ian McCarthy from the University of Cambridge, and other European scientists. This project compares the observed properties of groups of galaxies with cosmological simulations. The intergalactic gas in groups (see for example the news item from 16 October 2009) is very sensitive to the effects of feedback, and a range of simulations involving different feedback mechanisms have been used. The conclusions, published in two recent papers (1,2) suggest that the feedback is dominated by massive black holes in active galaxies operating at redshifts of 2-4, when the Universe was less than a quarter of its present age. In the simulation shown above (click image for video) a galaxy group grows from small density fluctuations in the early Universe. The left panel shows the density of gas in the simulation, whilst the right panel shows heavy elements produced within massive stars, and ejected into the surrounding gas by cosmic feedback events.

News 21/09/2010

LOFAR-UK Official opening

'Panoramic views of LOFAR-UK

The first major radio telescope to be built in Britain for decades, LOFAR-UK (Low Frequency Array, UK branch). was opened by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell at a ceremony at STFC's Chilbolton station in Hampshire (Monday 20 September). It will help answer questions such as "how did black holes grow in our universe?" and "what is the origin of magnetic fields on a cosmic scale?"

The University of Birmingham is one of 22 Universities in the UK who have contributed towards its construction. The telescope, which is part of the European LOFAR array of telescopes, is one of about 36 stations spread over Europe from Sweden to Germany and the UK, with headquarters in the Netherlands. The UK station, which was opened today, improves the resolution of the entire array by a factor of two, since the resolution of a radio telescope array depends on the distance of separation between the furthest components of the array.

The LOFAR array will "listen" to the Universe at FM radio frequencies (30-200 MHz). Much of this range of frequencies has not hitherto been covered by any major telescope- recent developments in technology enable LOFAR to operate at these frequencies for the first time. Important serendipitous discoveries are therefore highly likely. During the ceremony, guests were able to observe a pulsar in real time using the HBA array (pictured above) of the Chilbolton station.

For more information, please visit:

LOFAR-UK web site

STFC press release

University of Birmingham press release

News 16/08/2010

'Looking for Black Holes with Lasers' at the British Science Festival

'Looking for Black Holes with Lasers' at the British Science Festival

September sees the arrival of the British Science Festival in Birmingham! As part of the national celebration of all that is science, we are putting together an exhibition entitled 'Looking for Black Holes with Lasers'. Black holes are very difficult to see directly, but if two black holes collide they send waves through the fabric of our universe, strong enough to be detected many galaxies away. Come along and find out how we use lasers to discover black holes by observing the gravitational radiation that they emit. This exhibition will boast two new interactive computer games from the Birmingham gravitational wave group, as well as demonstration models of gravitational wave detector technology and talks from the experts in the field.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.sr.bham.ac.uk/gwgroup/bsf2010

The technology demonstrations will include an operational model of a gravitational wave detector mirror suspension system controlled using the Birmingham designed and manufactured 'BOSEM' sensor/actuator system, and a table-top Michelson interferometer. Talks will be given at 12:00 each day throughout the exhibition period by our resident experts; Alberto Vecchio, Andreas Freise and Mike Cruise on the 16th, 17th 18th of September respectively.

This exhibition will take place from Thursday 16th to Saturday 18th of September between 10:00 and 17:00 in Physics West 117/125 (please note that the exhibition shall NOT take place on Sunday the 19th, contrary to the information provided in some versions of the University of Birmingham program).

News 22/02/2010

gwoptics web page launch

gwoptics website launched

We have just launched a new website, hosting interative software tools and information about numerical simulations of optical systems and gravitational wave detection:

http://www.gwoptics.org

The aim of the site is to provide numerical tools for researchers and to promote the use of interactive applications for outreach to the wider community. Yes, we have interactive webpages... have a look for yourself!

The search for gravitational waves is one of the major challenges of experimental physics today. During the design and realisation of current detectors, many new technologies have been invented in order to reach new records in sensitivity. Numerical simulations have played a major role in this process; they are indispensable tools in optical design, detector tuning and data analysis.

Many of the software tools used for gravitational wave research are by-products of the design process, having been developed explicitly to fill a gap in the otherwise available tools. Our group is leading the simulation activity of the GEO 600 collaboration and maintains one of the main interferometer simulation tools in the field. In order to make these tools accessible for a wider audience, such as scientists in other fields, we have created gwoptics.org.

Interactive 'sketches' by undergraduate and school students can also be found on the website, giving a fresh insight into some of the techniques used in gravitational wave detection. Hopefully by seeing the high quality of these applications, created largely by non-expert programmers, people will be encouraged to investigate the outreach possibilities such projects can offer.

So please, go along and enjoy the site... you can even have a go at blasting some asteroids if you need a break from all that science!

News 16/10/2009

HP DesignJet 750c

Information about large format poster printing can be found at http://www.sr.bham.ac.uk/plotter/











News 16/10/2009

Image credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/E.O'Sullivan

Stephan's Quintet: Building galaxy groups through cosmic collisions

Most galaxies reside in small groups, typically consisting of a handful of spirals, each containing cold gas which over time forms stars. However, in more massive groups and galaxy clusters, we observe more evolved elliptical and lenticular galaxies which contain little cold gas but which are embedded in extensive haloes of ten-million degree hot gas. While it is widely accepted that both galaxies and groups grow through mergers, it is unclear what happens to the cold gas in galaxies and how the hot gas halo is formed as groups evolve.

The combined Chandra X-ray/CFHT optical image above shows Stephan's Quintet, a galaxy group in the process of developing a hot halo. Four of the group member galaxies are visible in the image (three spiral and one elliptical) as well as the foreground spiral galaxy NGC 7317, on the lower left. The curved light blue ridge running down the centre of the image is X-ray emission from a filament of gas that has been tidally stripped out of the galaxies and heated by a shock wave driven by the spiral galaxy NGC 7318b, which has collided with the filament at a velocity of over three million kilometers per hour. The group also contains a larger halo of hot X-ray emitting gas (not visible in this image) whose mass matches estimates of the mass of cold gas missing from the galaxies. This suggests that most or all of the hot gas may have been produced through heating of cold gas during galaxy collisions and interactions, something of a departure from the current theories of group evolution.

Dr. Ewan O'Sullivan, who has recently joined the Astrophysics and Space Research group, will be working with Dr. Somak Raychaudhury to follow up this discovery with X-ray and radio observations of other evolving groups. For further information see this Chandra article or the published paper.

News 11/09/2009

Travel through space

Travel through space with Lucy Hawking

The next talk in the Tea, Talk and Telescope series will take place on Wednesday 7th October at 6.30pm (with coffee and tea at 6pm) in the Large Lecture Theatre of the Poynting Physics building of the University of Birmingham. The talk is "Travel through space with Lucy Hawking - George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt" and is rescheduled from the May event.

This event is FREE for all.

"Explore the wonders of the Universe with author Lucy Hawking as she presents a young person's guide through the galaxy! Lucy will be talking about her latest book, `George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt,' the follow-up to the brilliant 'George's secret key to the universe'. Discover the mysteries of physics, science and the universe with George, his new friends next door - the scientist Eric and his daughter, Annie - and a super-intelligent computer known as Cosmos, which can take them to the edge of a black hole and back again."

For information and directions please see our talks page

News 04/08/2009

M17"

University of Birmingham Observatory 25th Anniversary

This year the University of Birmingham Observatory is celebrating its 25th year of full operation. The facility opened in 1984 by the then Astronomer Royal Prof. F.G. Smith and has been used by over 300 undergraduate students for research projects. It has been very succesful in enagaging astronomy with the general public. The Observatory was upgraded in 2006, to add a Meade LX200R 14 with an SBIG STL-1001E CCD (1024x1024 pixel) for direct imaging. The main instrument is a computer controlled 0.4m Cassegrain, which is now used exclusively for CCD spectroscopy. The observatory is scheduled every weekday night in term time. The observatory is used by third year students from October to February. Here students work in groups of four and undertake an observing project designed by themselves. Students have access to the observatory for second year project work in February to April. The telescope has also been used to take images of the fantastic objects in the night sky and a selection of these can be found in the observatory image gallery.

News 14/07/2009

Degree

Bumper crop of Astrophysics PhD graduates

At this year's degree ceremony in the Great Hall on July 13th, no fewer than four of our talented postgraduate students were awarded their doctorate degrees by the vice-chancellor Prof. David Eastwood. Seen here (from left to right) in their Birmingham PhD robes are Dr. Samuel George, Dr. Aliakbar Dariush, Prof. Trevor Ponman (Head of the Astrophysics and Space Research Group - also a Birmingham PhD), Dr. Ria Johnson and Dr. Emma Robinson. Between them their research ranges from exoplanets to galaxy groups and gravitational wave detection. Ali and Emma are now doing postdoctoral research at Cardiff and Potsdam, whilst Sam is about to move to Calgary, and Ria is taking up a staff position at the Office for National Statistics.




News 26/06/2009

WiFeS

First light for WiFeS!

What physical processes cause actively star-forming spiral galaxies to lose their gas supply, stop forming new stars and transform into red, dead elliptical galaxies when they encounter the dense environments of massive galaxy clusters ?

Does the "wind" infalling galaxies feel as they pass through the hot, dense intra-cluster medium at >1000km/s strip away all the gas required for forming new stars ?

The University of Birmingham, in collaboration with the University of Durham, the Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy, and the Australian National University have recently started a new long-term EU-funded programme called ACCESS, to obtain integral-field unit spectroscopy of >100 galaxies within the Shapley supercluster, the most massive and dynamically-active structure in the local Universe. We are using WiFeS, a new state-of-the-art instrument on the ANU 2.3-m telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory, Australia, which is able to split the light from a galaxy into ~1000 1"x1" sized "pixels", and obtain the spectrum of each "pixel" over the full optical waverange. This allows us to map to great precision the internal kinematics of the galaxy, or to map the formation of new stars, the ages and chemical abundances of existing stellar populations, or the levels of dust extinction across the full extent of the galaxy.

The image (courtesy of Gianni Busarello of OAC-Naples) shows the velocity map of one of the first galaxies observed in April, as measured through the H-alpha emission-line, which traces new star-formation. Red colours indicate regions of the galaxy moving away from us, and blue colours indicate regions moving towards us, showing clearly the overall coherent rotation of the galaxy as would be expected from its spiral morphology.

The level of detail is exquisite, and in future these images will allow us to identify if galaxies have been disturbed by tidal interactions with other galaxies, or are undergoing ram-pressure stripping, which acts to strip gas and quench star-formation, starting from the outer edge of the galaxy and working inwards to a certain point at which the galaxy is sufficiently dense to retain its gas. By observing a large sample of galaxies in various stages of transformation, we will be able to distinguish among the possible pathways of evolution from gas-rich infalling spiral to gas-poor cluster elliptical.

News 22/05/2009

iTorsion

Journeying towards the Centre of Gravity

Professor Clive Speake (Professor of Experimental Physics) will give his inaugural lecture onThursday, 28th May 2009

All are welcome to attend.

Starts: 28 May 2009
Start Time: 5.15pm
Venue: Poynting Physics Large Lecture Theatre
Contact: RSVP to Karen Wright Email: k.r.wright [at] bham.ac.uk

Since the time of Newton physics has enjoyed steady progress towards a deepening understanding of the forces that are known to be at work in the Universe. However this progress is now being threatened by the problem of finding and experimentally verifying a fundamental theory of gravity at very small distance scales.

In my lecture I will briefly review the problem of unifying gravitation with the other known forces and I will describe some experiments that can be performed that may help us to address this problem.

I will describe the experimental work underway in Birmingham and the technological developments that very much carry on the tradition started by J.H.Poynting in the 19th century.


News 31/03/2009

80telescopes

AIGO, GEO600, LIGO, TAMA and Virgo participate in ESO’s "Around the World in 80 Telescopes"

"Around the World in 80 Telescopes" is a live 24-hour webcast organized by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) as part of "100 hours of Astronomy" celebrations to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009. This unique webcast will visit, by night and by day, some of the most advanced astronomical observatories around the globe - including the worldwide network of gravitational wave observatories and AIGO the Australian prototype gravitational wave detector. With these giant laser interferometers, researchers monitor the universe in the unique spectrum of gravitational waves - for the first time, they are "listening" to the universe and will discover unknown and distant regions. By observing gravitational waves (tiny ripples in space-time) we will gain unique insights into black holes, neutron stars and the Big Bang.

During the webcast on-site researchers at each gravitational wave observatory will explain how they are listening to the universe and introduce you to the very sophisticated technology that is needed to measure tiny gravitational wave signals: vacuum tubes, high powered lasers, mirror suspensions, absorption free optics, laser stabilization, noise reduction etc.

The webcast : 3 April 2009, 9:00 UT (Universal Time/GMT) to 4 April 2009, 09:00 UT

Stations of the tour through gravitational wave observatories and further information:

News 10/03/2009

pi

University of Birmingham Π Day: Understanding the Mathematics of the Universe

Pi Day is currently planned to run from 10:00 am to 5:15 pm on Saturday 14th of March 2009. Entrance and all activities are free, but due to limits on numbers certain workshops will be on a first-come-first served basis. We hope to see you there!

This event is part of the National Science and Engineering Week events at the University of Birmingham.

Space, the Final Frontier as many would say, is a spectacular place. The Universe is teeming with objects so awe inspiring in nature that perhaps one can not help but feel a little dwarfed by them. Yet this does not daunt many of those who study the Universe, trying to understand its many facets: from where it came from, to how it will die and everything in between. One of the most eminent figures from the twentieth century in this quest was Albert Einstein, who's work on gravity laid the foundations for much of what would follow in the following decades and beyond.

Given that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, the University of Birmingham's Astronomical Society feel that it is important to understand the role that mathematics plays in the Universe and there is no better day than on Pi Day to do this. Pi Day is the celebration of the irrational number which represents the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space. The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.

This event will feature many activities hands on activities such as rocket launching, Mars Rover building and how to build your own sextant. There will be a number of mathematics sessions, including code breaking and the shape of the Universe. The will be a chance to explore the night sky in a mobile planetarium. There are also a number of talks planned for the day. In the morning we will explore the Universe with Samuel George talking about the hunt for extraterrestrial life in "Is Anybody Out There?" and Ria Johnson looking at galaxies, far, far away in "How to build a Universe". In the afternoon we will explore the mathematics of the Universe with Dr Chris Sangwin who will be giving the afternoon talk on Pi, in "How Round is your Circle?". There will be a raffle and a number of exhibitions stands which will includes local societies and retail stalls giving you the opportunity to follow-up your interest.

For more information see the Pi Day webpages

News 06/03/2009

Shoemaker-Levy-9

Poetry of the Night: A marvellous union between science and literature - 13th Patrick Moore Lecture

On October 2, 1605, Londoners were treated to an almost total eclipse of the Sun at around the same time that Shakespeare's King Lear was exploring humanity's relation to the cosmos. "These Late Eclipses in the Sun and Moon" (a passage from the play) begins a sophisticated discussion of that relation, based on real events in the night sky. This is just one example of the richness of astronomical allusions in English Literature that will be explored in this presentation.

The 13th "Patrick Moore" lecture is to take place on the 9th March at 7:30pm. The talk will be by David H. Levy, American comet discoverer (remember Shoemaker-Levy-9 that crashed into Jupiter a few years ago?) and author. David Levy is the host of a very popular radio show on Arizona Public radio. The talk starts at 7:30pm in the Poynting Physics Large Lecture Theatre (S02). Snacks and tea in the Study lounge from 7pm before the talk.

For more information and directions please see our talks page.

News 05/02/2009

GEP600 site

The GEO600 gravitational wave detector tests holographic Universe

Can GEO600 hear the quantum noise of spacetime? Are we living in a holographic Universe? Are space and time grainy? Is there quantum noise in spacetime? American physicist Craig Hogan is convinced that he has found proof in the data of the German-British gravitational wave detector GEO600 and that his ideas could explain mysterious noise in the detector data that has not been explained so far. New experiments in the coming months will yield more evidence about Craig Hogan's assumptions.

To test the Theory of holographic noise , scientists from Hannover and Birmingham will shift the frequency of GEO600's maximum sensitivity towars higher frequencies. The frequency of maximum sensitivity is the tone that the detector can hear best. It is normally adjusted to offer the best chance for hearing exploding stars or merging black holes. If Craig Hogan is right the sensitivity of GEO600 would be limited at all frequencies by the same level of holographic noise. Even if it turns out that the mysterious noise is the same at high frequencies as at the lower ones, this will not constitute proof for Hogan's hypothesis. It would, however, provide a strong motivation for further study. Over the next year the sensitivity of GEO600 will be significantly improved by using 'squeezed vacuum' and by the installation of a mode filter in a new vacuum chamber.

News 30/01/2009

LOFAR logo

The University of Birmingham has joined the LOFAR-UK consortium

The University of Birmingham has joined the consortium for LOFAR-UK, which is a 'next generation' radio telescope under construction in Europe, operating in the 30-240 MHz frequency range. This radio array, with its headquarters in the Netherlands, but with antennae spread all over Western Europe, including the UK, will have an unprecedented field of view and multiple beams, and will open up a completely new phase of radioastronomy. It is the only fully-funded pathfinder for the low-frequency component of the Square Kilometre Array. Initially, LOFAR will work on five keys projects:

Birmingham astrophysicists will be involved in the first two key projects.

News 14/11/2008

Mirror Images

Mirror images, antimatter and time reversal - 12th Patrick Moore Lecture

In our next public talk we take a step away from the large scale astrophysics and take a detailed look at how the Universe is put together. We explore, without mathematics, the three symmetries implied in the title. These are important in science, particularly in particle physics. At the microscopic level, the laws of mechanics and electromagnetism appear to be perfectly symmetrical, but the symmetry is broken by the weak interaction, the force that allows the Sun to shine. We explain how symmetry breaking could help us to avoid being annihilated by a science-fiction antimatter alien from another world. Again at the microscopic level there is a small asymmetry between the forward and backward directions of time. On larger scales however the direction of time is crucial, and time-reversed systems generally lead to absurd situations.

The 12th "Patrick Moore" lecture is to take place on the 4th Dec at 7:30pm. The talk will be by Prof Peter Kalmus OBE (QMUL), who was one of the key scientists involved in the discovery of the W and Z particles, which provided the experimental evidence that electromagnetism and the weak interaction were aspects of the same force. The talk starts at 7:30pm in the Poynting Physics Large Lecture Theatre (S02). Snacks and tea in the Study lounge from 7pm before the talk. If clear, sky viewing with with telescopes with the help of Astrosoc members after the talk.

For more information and directions please see our talks page.

News 31/10/2008

Einstein Telescopein Gravitational Wave Observatory

Einstein Telescope: Gravitational Wave Observatory

The Gravitational Physics Group have received a grant of £150,000 to design a new telescope that will aid them in their quest to discover more about the dark side of the universe.

The team are part of a worldwide collaboration that is looking for gravitational waves - tiny distortions of space-time that were predicted by Albert Einstein in the early 20th Century, but have never been directly detected. This is one of the most fundamental research areas in modern science as the direct observation of these waves will allow totally new insights into physics of black holes and may provide a direct view at what happened just after the Big Bang.

Two first generation interferometric detectors, GEO 600 and Virgo, are active already in Europe - in collaboration with the three LIGO detectors in America. The University of Birmingham is already making strong contributions to the instrument development and science exploitation of these five instruments. The new Einstein Telescope will be designed by physicists over the next three years, and will be an important step towards the third generation of gravitational wave observatories. They will be a hundred times more powerful than the current detectors, increasing the volume of the universe that can be observed by a factor of a million.

Further details can be found on the Einstein Telescope webpage

News 10/10/2008

Einstein in Focus

Einstein in focus: Gravitational wave astronomy and gravitational lensing

The above RAS/IOP Specialist Discussion one-day meeting will take place in London on Friday 17th October, 2008 at the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly.

This meeting will bring together the gravitational wave and gravitational lensing communities to discuss issues at the interface of these two fields of study. The main focus of the meeting is on how both strong and weak gravitational lensing will complicate the interpretation of gravitational waves detected with ground-based laser interferometers with ground-based laser interferometers (such as LIGO, Virgo and GEO-600) and LISA. In particular, the aims are:

Further details on the meeting can be found here

News 22/08/2008

Birmingham Space Day

Birmingham Space Day

Forty two. That was the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything proposed by Deep Thought in Douglas Adams' book the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But how much of the ultimate answer does the Universe actually contribute? Whilst astronomers at the University of Birmingham are likely unable to find the answer to that question, at their upcoming event, Space Day, they hope to be able to answer many other more day-to-day questions, such as how does a telescope work? What can I look at in the sky tonight? How did NASA get their rovers on Mars safely?

This event, aimed at all ages of the general public, will feature talks by researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy, including Dr William Chaplin on the "Music of the Sun" and Dr Somak Raychaudhury on "Einstein's Outrageous Legacy - Black Holes, Cosmic Illusions and Dark Energy", as well as interactive workshops which tackle telescope making, air rocket creation and launching, and even making Mars rovers out of little more than cardboard and sellotape! Other activities such as a tour of the night sky in a mobile planetarium, a tour of the department's astronomical and space laboratory facilities, a chance to see how many cosmic rays pass through you every second and a raffle are planned for the day.

Space Day is currently planned to run from 10:00 am to 5:15 pm on Saturday 4th of October 2008. Entrance and all activities are free, but due to limits on numbers certain workshops will be on a first-come-first served basis. We hope to see you there! For more information see the space day site.

News 01/07/2008

Picture An overlay of the results
	  of a supercomputer simulation of colliding black holes and a piece of
	  gravitational-wave detector equipment

"Can you hear black holes collide?" at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2008

A team of gravitational-wave researchers has been selected to exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Southampton are joining forces with colleagues from the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam, Germany, and designers from Milde Science Communication to showcase the exciting science associated with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, black holes and gravitational waves.

The exhibit, entitled "Can you hear black holes collide?", introduces the main ideas behind Einstein’s relativistic theory of gravity. Through a number of hand-on exhibits visitors get an understanding of how space and time are flexible, and why this leads to gravity. Black holes are explained. A table-top laser-interferometer is used to demonstrate the technology used to search for the tiny ripples in space and time that bathe the Earth, the gravitational waves. State-of-the-art supercomputer simulations of colliding black holes are demonstrated. The challenging task of digging weak gravitational-wave signals out of noisy detector data is introduced via a fun game where visitors can test their skill at listening for actual black hole signals.

Running from 30th June to 3rd July 2008, the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is a premier annual showcase for scientific excellence in the UK. Research teams are invited to bid to provide an exhibit on their work, and after a stiff competition the best are selected for display to scientists, the media and the general public.

The research is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council in the UK and the Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany.



News 26/06/2008

Picture ILIAS working group in
	  front of the cryogenic Explorer-Bar-Detector in Frascati, Italy.

Scientists running the two most sensitive Gravitational Wave Detectors in Europe meet at the University in Birmingham

The physicists from the GEO600 detector (constructed and operated by a German-British Collaboration) and the VIRGO detector (constructed and operated by an Italian-French Collaboration) meet regularly to exchange their knowledge and experience. Over the last years a very fruitful collaboration between the commissioners of both Laser interferometers was establish. Within the European ILIAS framework

The Gravitational Wave experts will meet in Birmingham at the 10th and 11th of July. The meeting will focus on improvements and future upgrades of the GEO600 and VIRGO interferometers, in order to make these instruments even more reliable and sensitive.



News 06/06/2008

Picture Extragalactic Workshop 2008

Extragalactic Workshop 2008

Since 1998, the extragalactic group at Birmingham has held regular Workshops to bring together observational and theoretical astronomers for two days to discuss a current "hot topic" in extragalactic astronomy. This year, the 11th Workshop will be held on June 24-25th on the topic: Semi-analytic models - are we kidding ourselves?

These models have been developed over the past 15 years to help astrophysicists understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. Although "semi-analytic" models are now very popular, many astronomers remain suspicious of them, and the aim of the meeting is to bring together enthusiasts and sceptics to examine what we can learn from the successes and failures of such models. Some lively debate is guaranteed!



News 23/05/2008

Picture Chris Haines in Arizona

Observing the evolved stellar populations in galaxy clusters

In mid May, Dr. Chris Haines visited the NOAO Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, USA, to observe a dozen galaxy clusters using recently commissioned wide-field near-infrared instrument NEWFIRM on the 4m Mayall telescope. This near infrared data provides a direct measure of the overall mass in the form of stars in the virialized regions of the clusters, and we will compare the distribution of stars within the clusters with the underlying dark matter, as measured using weak lensing. We will also combine this data with incoming mid-infrared data from the Spitzer infrared space telescope, to find dusty starburst galaxies within the cluster, to attempt to unravel the processes which transfrom infalling starforming spiral galaxies into the "red and dead" elliptical galaxies thad dominate local clusters. These data were obtained as part of LoCuSS, a large multi-wavelength survey of ~100 galaxy clusters at redshifts from 0.15-0.3.

News 09/05/2008

Ali Dariush in Chile

The Vast majority of galaxies are within groups of galaxies and they are probably the best laboratories to study the interaction and evolution of galaxies.

Ali Dariush, a postgraduate student in the Extragalactic group and his supervisor Dr. Somak Raychaudhury are leading the optical part of XI-project, a multi-wavelength survey of 25 redshift selected groups of galaxies with the aim of understanding their physical properties and dynamics.

Ali's last observing run was in May 2008 where he used the wide field CCD camera installed on 100 inch du Pont telescope at Las Campanas observatory , Chile for mosaic imaging of a sample of 12 XI-groups in B and R bands.

The XI-project is a joint project between the Extragalactic group of Birmingham University and Carnegie institution of Washington, USA.



News 15/04/2008

Enterprise

Space Weather and Lunar Exploration - 10th Patrick Moore Lecture

Space is a dangerous place for humans, once we step beyond the protection of the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field. Galactic cosmic rays and bursts of charged particles from the Sun damaging to health happen with alarming frequency - the Apollo astronauts were lucky. Understanding the physics of radiation from distinct source in space will be useful to help future space voyagers plan journeys in greater safety, and produce effective shields for these unavoidable events on journeys to Mars or beyond.

The 10th "Patrick Moore" lecture is to take place on the 8th May at 7:30pm. The talk will be by Dr Mike Hapgood, who is the Head of the Space Environment Group at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. The talk starts at 7:30pm on Thursday 8th May in the Poynting Physics Large Lecture Theatre (S02). Snacks and tea in the Study lounge from 7pm before the talk. If clear, sky viewing with telescopes with the help of Astrosoc members after the talk.

For more information and directions please see our talks page.

This series of talks is funded by STFC http://www.stfc.ac.uk/, (Public Understanding of Science grant), and is organised by the School of Physics and Astronomy http://www.ph.bham.ac.uk and the Astronomical Society of UoB



News 07/03/2008

Tom Espiner

Artist in residence

Tom Espiner, an actor and co-director of Sound and Fury Theatre Company , is working with the Astrophysics department as an artist-in-residence until June 2008.

The project is an opportunity to research ideas for a performance piece, which will focus on astronomy and the human interaction with the universe.

Sound and Fury has previously staged work in total darkness with surround sound design - immersing their audiences in an environment, which harnesses the power of the imagination and heightens the aural sense. Tom is interested in using these methods to explore ideas of light and darkness in astronomy. He also wants to frame the scale of the universe in a different perspective by paralleling the cosmic with everyday experience.

Tom is keen to explore metaphor, analogy and patterns in both art and science. The idea of pattern seeking and pattern interpretation is both a scientific and artistic pursuit. Where these pursuits share common ground and where they diverge may provide fertile grounds for discussion.



News 26/02/2008

NOAO Kitt Peak Observatory

Observing Galaxy Clusters

In mid February, Dr. Tom Targett and postgraduate student Vicky Hamilton-Morris visited the NOAO Kitt Peak facility in Arizona, USA, to observe galaxy clusters in the infra-red, using the 4m Mayall telescope. The hope was to add to previous IR observations taken at the 4m Victor M. Blanco telescope in Chile. These clusters were being observed as part of LoCuSS, a large multi-wavelength survey of ~100 galaxy clusters at redshifts from 0.15-0.3.



News 31/01/2008

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)

Astronomers search for radio emission from Brown Dwarfs

Dr Ian Stevens and postgraduate student Samuel George travelled to India to use the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) as part of their continuing work investigating the nature of brown dwarfs. Their targets were 10 L dwarf stars, otherwise known as brown dwarfs (or ultra-cool stars). The GMRT is the world's most sensitive radio telescope at decametric wavelengths and these objects are expected to produce emission at these frequencies. The interiors of these stars are expected to be fully convective, suggesting that they will be capable of generating a magnetic field by a dynamo process. Particles are expected to become trapped in this field and due to a process known as an electron-cyclotron maser strong, and possibly flared, emission is expected.



News 11/05/2007

johnbrown_talk

Rockets @ the BBC Birmingham's Public Space

Members of the Astrophysics & Space Research Group and the University's Astronomical Society took over the BBC Birmingham's Public space for two weekends of astronomy related activities.

This was part of the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the BBC television show "The Sky at Night" - a show that is produced at the Birmingham centre. Over the course of four days some 2,000 members of the general public were treated to a variety of fun activities. These events included the chance to build and launch their own rockets that were propelled upwards by compressed air, land the space shuttle on a simulator, look at photographic plates of the Universe and hunt around the BBC centre for the planets of our solar system.



News 20/01/2007

STEREO News Update

Following the final orbital manouevre of the STEREO-B spacecraft, the door covering the Heliospheric Imager instrument on this spacecraft was opened on 11th January and we took first-light images with the cameras. We were greeted by a wonderful surprise! Because the spacecraft is not yet in its final pointing attitude we had a spectacular view of Comet McNaught (designated C/2006 P1) the brightest comet in over 40 years, in the HI-1B camera. Over the subsequent days the spacecraft was rotated about the Sun direction until the comet was no longer in the field-of-view of this camera, however at around the same time it had entered into the field of the HI-1 camera on spacecraft A and we were able to follow it here for several weeks. It is currently still visible in the wider angle HI-2B camera, albeit at lower resolution.

hi1a_15_jan_0001_col_2



This image (on the right) shows a close-up of the details in the tail of the comet, with stars in the background. The core, or "coma", of the comet is just off the bottom right of the picture and is so bright it would cause serious saturation of the CCD detector if it were in the field-of-view.



During the past few weeks, whilst we have been working on the commissioning and calibration of the instruments, we have made a number of other important observations including detection of asteroids down to 12th magnitude. Most importantly, we have already shown that we are capable of meeting the prime science requirements of the mission by detecting a number of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and following their propagation across the field-of-view of the HI-1 camera and into HI-2.



hi1a

This picture from HI-1A shows a CME being ejected from the Sun. The CMEs are typically 1% of the brightness of the coronal background, which has been subtracted off. The two really bright objects in this image are the planets Venus and Mercury.



STEREO spacecraft B had its second and final lunar "swing-by" on 21st January, so both spacecraft are now in heliocentric orbits around the Sun and will gradually separate from the Earth during the coming months giving a truly "stereo" view of the CMEs.

For more information on STEREO see [here].

News 26/12/2006

First STEREO images

STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program and it consists of two nearly identical space-based observatories. One of these observatories is placed ahead of the Earth's orbit and the other one trails behind. The Heliospheric Imager (HI) instruments on-board STEREO have been developed by a UK-led consortium from the University of Birmingham and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, as well as the Centre Spatial de Liege, Belgium, and the Naval Research Laboratory, USA.

The two spacecraft were successfully launched on 25th October 2006 and following the final orbital manouevre of the STEREO-A spacecraft, the door covering the HI instrument on this spacecraft was opened on 13th December, allowing imaging. We were absolutely delighted with the quality and clarity of the "first light" images from both cameras in HI-A

HI1_15_Dec_06




This (image on right) is a 50 sec exposure with the HI-1A camera. The field-of-view is 20 degrees across and the centre of the Sun is about 4 degrees off the right hand side of the picture. The glow on the right hand side is the extended F-Corona of the Sun, otherwise known as the Zodiacal Light, caused by scattering of sunlight from dust particles in interplanetary space. The profile of this Coronal background is exactly as predicted without any significant instrumental background. The very bright object with the vertical streaks is Venus. As expected this saturates the pixels of the CCD detector locally and there is "bleeding" of the charge up and down the CCD columns.







HI1_15_Dec_06

On 15 Dec both spacecraft had their first lunar "swing-by". STEREO-A had a closest approach to the Moon of 5,600 km, resulting in its escape into heliocentric orbit. About 20 mins after this the Moon appeared in the field of the HI-2 camera from behind the baffles. The image is a 2 sec exposure. The bright crescent of the Moon is causing serious saturation of the CCD on the right hand edge but we have some nice views of the dark side.

For more information on STEREO see [here].





News 17/12/2006

gps
Dr. Graham P. Smith

Fowler Astronomy Prize awarded to researcher

The Royal Astronomical Society have awarded the 2007 Fowler Astronomy Prize to Dr. Graham P. Smith from our Astrophysics and Space Research Group.

Two Fowler Prizes are awarded annually to individuals who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution to the astronomical and geophysical sciences at an early stage of their research career.

Dr. Smith's award recognises his achievements in advancing our understanding of the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters, and the impact of his work on attempts to measure dark energy, the mysterious driving force behind the current accelerating expansion of the Universe.

Smith currently devotes most of his research time to leading the Local Cluster Substructure Survey (LoCuSS), a new multi-disciplinary collaboration, spanning Europe, USA, Canada, Japan and Taiwan.

For more information on the award please see [ras.org.uk] and for more on Dr Graham P. Smith see his [who's who entry].

News 11/12/2006

johnbrown_talk
Black Holes and White Rabbits
by Prof John Brown

Black Holes and White Rabbits - the magic of astronomy

The 5th Patrick Moore lecture, one of a series organised jointly between the School of Physics and Astronomy and Astrosoc (the University's Astronomical Society), took place last Thursday. We had the great honour of having the 10th Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Prof John Brown, along to give this talk.


Prof John Brown is not just an astronomer but also an accomplished magician. Given his title, "Black Holes and White Rabbits", we were expecting to be amazed, and the crowd of over 200 people from the University and general public was not disappointed. He used his skills as a magician to good effect, as he showed how one can visualize complex astrophysics by using illusion. He did conjure something out of his top hat, but instead of a white furry animal, he produced an entire Universe for us all to see and wonder at.


The lecture series funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).


For more information about the group's outreach activities see our outreach pages.




News 01/12/2006

astrosoc
Astrosoc host a talk by BBC Science Correspondent
Dr David Gregory

Astrosoc - Best Student Physics Society in 2006

The University of Birmingham Astronomical Society was recently declared to be the best student physics society in the country. This annual award was presented by Nexus, the student wing of the Institute of Physics, and reflects the continuing hard work by the society.


"Astrosoc" is run by students, and membership is open to all students within the University. Recently, the society started work in collaboration with the Astrophysics and Space Research Group, to deliver a series of PPARC-funded evening lectures. These, along with other public outreach work, are seen as key factors in this success. For more information about the society please see [www.astrosoc.org.uk]

News 12/10/2006

eis
Solar-B Launch (picture courtesy of ISAS/JAXA)

Hinode Satellite Successfully Launched

The Solar-B satellite was successfully launched from Japan’s Uchinoura Space Centre on September 23rd at 6:36 a.m. (Japanese Standard Time). Following the launch Solar-B was renamed Hinode (meaning “sunrise”). The Hinode mission comprises three coordinated instruments – an optical telescope, an EUV imaging spectrometer and an X-ray/EUV telescope – which together will investigate the interaction between the Sun’s magnetic field and its corona. This will result in an improved understanding of the mechanisms that give rise to solar magnetic variability and how this variability modulates the total solar output and creates the driving force behind space weather. The Astrophysics and Space Research Group has been a major contributor to the UK-led EUV imaging spectrometer (EIS). We were responsible for the design and manufacture of the lightweight Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) structure of the instrument, for the vacuum door that protects the optical filter at the entrance aperture of the telescope, and for the thermal design and modeling of the instrument. Opening of the aperture doors and “first light” for the various telescopes is expected to take place around the end of October.

News 26/06/2006

fossilcluster
Fossil Cluster RX J416.4+2315

Secrets of fossil galaxy clusters

Many galaxies reside in galaxy groups, where they experience close encounters with their neighbours. These interactions cause large galaxies to spiral slowly towards the centre of the group, where they can merge to form a single giant central galaxy, which progressively swallows all its neighbours. If this process runs to completion, and no new galaxies fall into the group, then the result is an object dubbed a 'fossil group', in which almost all the stars are collected into a single giant galaxy, which sits at the centre of a group-sized dark matter halo. The presence of this halo can be inferred from the presence of extensive hot gas, which fills the gravitational potential wells of many groups and emits X-rays.

Taking advantage of the high sensitivity of ESA's XMM-Newton and the sharp vision of NASA's Chandra X-Ray space observatories, a team of astronomers at the Astrophysics and Space Research group studied in detail the physical features of the most massive and hot known fossil group, with the main aim to solve a puzzle and understand the formation of massive fossils. In fact, according to simple theoretical models, they simply could not have formed in the time available to them! The XMM-Newton and Chandra X-ray observations, combined with optical and infrared analyses, revealed that group sits within a hot gas halo extending over three million light years and heated to a temperature of 50 million degrees, mainly due to shock heating as a result of gravitational collapse. Such a high temperature, about as twice as the previously estimated values, is usually characteristic of galaxy clusters.

For further information please see this ESA article

News 01/06/2006

Extragalactic Workshop on "Substructure in Dark Matter Halos"

The cold dark matter (CDM) model reproduces well the observed large scale structure of the local universe, however on smaller scales non-linear collapse of dark matter halos and the presence of baryons complicate the picture severely. How does the hierarchical assembly of dark matter halos modify the galaxies and gas trapped in those halos? What is the relationship between baryonic structures, and the underlying substructure of dark matter halos? Is the substructure of dark matter halos consistent with CDM? This Workshop will address these questions, emphasising the relationship between dark and luminous substructure.

For further information please see the workshop pages

News 24/04/2006

ngc2276
Chandra X-ray image of the hot gas in NGC 2276 (left),
and X-ray contours overlayed on an optical image (right).

The transforming group spiral NGC 2276

Conventional wisdom holds that stripping of gas from galaxies by interactions with the hot gas in galaxy groups is an inefficient process. Chandra X-ray data by Rasmussen & Ponman of the starburst spiral NGC 2276 in a small galaxy group is challenging this assumption. The data reveal a shock front ahead of the galaxy (to the right in the X-ray image shown), indicating that NGC 2276 is moving through the surrounding group gas at supersonic speeds. There is also a tail of gas behind the galaxy, stripped from NGC 2276 by the surrounding gas due to this motion. This interaction removes the galactic gas from which new stars would form, eventually leading to the transformation of this strongly star-forming galaxy into a quiescent system.

The mass of gas in the tail indicates that NGC 2276 could be losing all its gas within the next billion years. The result that stripping of galactic gas can occur so rapidly in groups, where most galaxies reside, will help to elucidate which processes are driving the evolution of a large fraction of galaxies in the Universe.

News 20/02/2006

abell2255
The pictures above shows X-ray contours overlaid on an optical
image (left) and an X-ray temperature map (right) of the cluster.

The merging cluster Abell 2255

An X-ray image of the elongated cluster of galaxies Abell 2255 taken with the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory by Sakelliou & Ponman shows clear signs that this system is the result of a collision between two progenitor clusters. The X-ray emission from the cluster, shown by the contours on both the images (to the right), is extended east-west, which is evidently the collision axis. Unlike normal clusters, the X-rays do not peak on a bright central galaxy. The temperature of the hot gas responsible for the X-ray emission, shown in the map on the right, reaches 108 K (1 keV is equivalent to 1.16x107 K), and has a complex asymmetrical structure. Cluster collisions such as this are the most energetic events in the Universe since the Big Bang.

Further recent articles on this:

News 22/11/2005

GEO 600 Site
The picture above shows an aerial view of the
L-shaped GEO 600 detector (the detector arms
have been marked with red colour).

The direct detection of gravitational waves is one of the grand experimental challenges of today. After more than three decades of research and development in gravitational-wave detectors, at last, the first detection of a gravitational wave on Earth is expected in the near future. You can read more or less interesting opinions on that in The Times Online (2005), the BBC (2005) and even on Slashdot.

Five such instruments are starting to take data: GEO 600: a British-German detector, located in Hannover, Germany, LIGO three large detectors in the United States, run by a large international science collaboration, the LIGO Science Collaboration (LSC), the VIRGO and a slightly smaller detector in Japan: TAMA.

Further recent news articles on gravitational wave detection: