Research & Facilities
Welcome to the Astrophysics & Space Research Group at the University of Birmingham. The group's research interests span a wide swathe of astronomy and fundamental physics, including the study of galaxies and larger cosmological structures, of black holes and neutron stars, using both electromagnetic and gravitational radiation, of stars and the planets which appear to orbit many of them, and of our own sun and its surrounding heliosphere. We also study gravity itself, and other ultra-weak forces, using sensitive experiments in the laboratory and in space.
The group has a long heritage of building space instruments. Our future programme of missions and technology research is currently concentrated in the area of gravitational physics, and especially in the new field of the detection of gravitational waves, using both ground and space-based interferometers. This work falls under the aegis of the group's Centre for Space and Gravity Research. which has extensive hardware development and testing facilities in house
The extragalactic group at Birmingham studies a wide range of cosmic structures, from star clusters to superclusters, using multi-wavelength observations (radio, IR, optical and X-ray) from ground and space-based observatories, together with advanced analysis techniques, and hydrodynamical modelling. Special interests of the group include the study of hot gas in galaxies, groups and clusters, the use of gravitational lensing to probe cluster structure and magnify the radiation from very distant galaxies, and the development of novel algorithms for analysis and visualisation of data. We are also working with colleagues in Computer Science to deploy some of these advanced techniques within the UK's developing Virtual Observatory.
The gravitational physics group is engaged in the study of gravity over a wide range of areas. On the experimental side, research activities include the development of technology for the observation of gravitational waves, both from earth and in space, and tests of the behaviour of gravity and weak forces at short range (tests of the inverse square law, measurement of the Casimir force and Newton's constant and searches for forces violating time reversal symmetry). The group is involved in several projects, including GEO 600, Advanced LIGO, VIRGO, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) and LISA Pathfinder. The research activities on the theoretical and observational side cover the study of gravitational wave sources, the search for gravitational waves in the data of ground based laser interferometers (GEO 600 and LIGO, the instruments of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration) and the astrophysical interpretation of future observations, and the preparation for the science exploitation of LISA.
The Galactic astrophysics group uses Galactic observations and simulations to explore some of the most interesting astronomical phenomena to understand how they arose and hwo they continue to evolve. We look for planets outside the solar system and investigate the evolution of planetary systems. We study the evolution of the most massive and brightest stars and the mass that is blown off their surface. Some of these stars evolve into compact objects: white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes, and we explore the properties of these extreme stars, their evolution in binaries, and dynamics of dense stellar environments.