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Sheffield Astronomy Research

The astronomy group within the Department of Physics & Astronomy comprises 7 academic staff, 6 research fellows and post-docs and 13 research students, whose research interests are supported by the Royal Society, STFC and Leverhulme and European Research Council grants and range from studies of planets, stars and star clusters within the Milky Way, to extragalactic supernovae, starbursts and active galaxies. Recent group papers can be found via arXiv.org.

A list of PhD projects for prospective postgraduate students is available here.

Research at Sheffield concentrates on four main areas:


Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and their more luminous counterparts, quasars, are among the most powerful objects in the Universe, and there is increasing speculation that these extreme objects may be intimately linked to the evolution of galaxies in general. Our interests focus on using radio galaxies and radio-loud quasars to investigate the nature of the links between galaxy evolution and nuclear activity. It is thought that AGN and quasars are triggered by galaxy interactions and mergers, which may also trigger starbursts, ranging from nearby star-forming regions to galaxy-wide episodes at high redshift. Therefore another strand of our research involves investigating how stars form in major galaxy mergers, and understanding the relationship between starbursts and nuclear activity.


Stars are the fundamental component of the visible Universe, the furnaces in which most elements are born and the hosts of planetary systems. Almost all stars are born in star clusters, spanning a large range of masses and densities. We are interested in the how stars, brown dwarfs and planets form, in particular in binary and multiple stellar systems. We are especially interested in how stars form in star clusters, and how those star clusters evolve. Massive star clusters are of particular interest, as they contain many hot luminous stars which feed back energy and metals into the interstellar medium.


Supernovae are the violent explosions that mark the deaths of certain types of stars. Powerful shock waves eminating from these events induce new generations of stars to form, that are also seeded with the heavy elements produced deep in the hearts of these explosions. We are interested in observing the nature of the explosion mechanisms responsible for some of these events and their relationship with how massive stars evolve, by observing the progenitor stars and shapes of the explosions as they happen.


Our primary research interests are in the field of close binary stars, in which at least one stellar component is a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole. This work has led us and our collaborators to develop a series of high-speed cameras, ULTRACAM, ULTRASPEC and HiPERCAM, as well as a robotic telescope on La Palma, pt5m, in order to monitor their variability. We are also members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which is searching for gravitational wave sources in the Universe, most likely emitted by close binary stars. Our efforts in this area are currently focused on the construction of GOTO, a wide-field survey telescope on La Palma that will search for electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational-wave transients.