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Research degrees in Astronomy and Astrophysics

We welcome postgraduate students and visiting research fellows to undertake research in our areas of interest (see below). Research students are registered for University of London degrees (MPhil/PhD) and work under the supervision of members of academic staff. Students may receive financial support (research studentships) offered by the research councils (including CASE studentships in collaboration with an industrial sponsor). A limited number of College studentshipsare also available.

See also: the website for the Astronomy Unit

Cosmology

The aim of cosmology is to unravel the mysteries of the universe as a whole. It addresses such fundamental questions as: why does the universe have its observed structure; how did it develop into its current form; what will happen to it in the future? Specific interests include the origin of the universe, inflationary and superstring cosmology, primordial black holes, the cosmic microwave background, inhomogeneous cosmology, the formation and evolution of large-scale structure, dark matter and gravitational lensing.

Gravitation

Work within the group covers theory, data analysis and experiments. Research areas include space experiments on gravitation, gravitational waves, theories of gravity and tests, relativistic astrophysics, black holes.

Planetary Formation, Astrophysical Fluids, and Accretion Discs

A primary research area is the formation and evolution of planets and planetary systems, especially their interaction with protoplanetary discs. Simulations employing state-of-the-art hydrodynamic, MHD and N-body codes on parallel supercomputers are used to study topical problems in planetary formation and accretion disc theory. Simulations are also employed to study the dynamics and evolution of planetary atmospheres, especially those of terrestrial planets and short-period extrasolar giant planets (hot Jupiters).

Solar and Stellar Physics

The work of the group covers many areas. Stellar physics constrains the ages of different stellar components and hence the evolution the Galaxy itself. Stars are used to calibrate age and distance measurements on the largest cosmological scales. They are the sources of most of the chemical evolution in the universe, elements being created and destroyed by nuclear burning and subsequently ejected into the interstellar medium. They are laboratories to study astrophysical processes such as convection, nucleosynthesis, mass loss and accretion, rotation and magnetic fields. The sun is uniquely valuable because we can study it close up, observing many phenomena that cannot be resolved in more distant stars.

Solar System Bodies and Dynamics

Work covers theory, data analysis, observations and simulations. Research areas include: physical studies of asteroids, comets and Kuiper Belt objects; long-term dynamics and orbital stability of meteoroids, asteroids, comets, natural satellites and planets; chaos in the solar system; resonance passage and tidal evolution; astrometric observations of planetary satellites; Voyager image analysis; planetary ring dynamics; computer algebra in celestial mechanics. The group is also involved in the highly successful NASA/ESA Cassini mission to Saturn and ESA's Rosetta mission.

Space and Solar Plasma Physics

Research areas cover: the structure of collisionless shocks, including the Earth's bow shock and interplanetary shocks; particle acceleration; kinetic waves and associated features; plasma turbulence. Theoretical work includes numerical self-consistent particle simulations and kinetic wave theory. Research areas cover: the structure of collisionless shocks, including the Earth's bow shock and interplanetary shocks; particle acceleration; kinetic waves and associated features; plasma turbulence.

Theoretical work includes numerical self-consistent particle simulations and kinetic wave theory. Solar coronal heating problem; various wave modes in inhomogeneous space plasmas and magnetic reconnection; solar flares; large scale numerical simulations (Vlasov, Particle-in-Cell and Magnetohydrodynamic); theoretical modeling of radio emission from solar flare electrons (Type III solar radio bursts).

Survey Astronomy

Surveys involve both statistical studies of large numbers of objects for astrophysical studies, and samples of rare objects whose properties can be studied in greater detail. They are relevant to the solar system, stars, the interstellar medium, the structure and evolution of our own and other galaxies, large-scale cosmological structure, dark matter and dark energy. Our research programmes use multi-wavelength wide-field imaging surveys at infrared and optical wavelengths. There is a strong involvement in VISTA and various spectroscopic surveys.

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