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Queen Mary awarded over £3 million for astronomy research

Researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy have received funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation, to support new research projects aimed at improving our understanding of the universe.

7 February 2020

Queen Mary awarded over £3 million for astronomy research
Queen Mary awarded over £3 million for astronomy research

The new grants, totalling £3.1 million, will cover research programmes in the areas of heliospheric and planetary research, and astronomy until 2023.

Professor Peter Hobson, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Throughout our history, Queen Mary has been at the forefront of some of the most exciting discoveries in physics and astronomy. This funding will support experts in our School to continue in their search for answers to fundamental questions about the world around us.”

About the projects

Unlocking the mysteries of the Sun

The new STFC grant will fund a research programme around the NASA Parker Solar Probe, the closest-ever approach to the sun.

Over the next few years, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, which launched in August 2018, will travel closer and closer to the sun until it is almost touching it. The data and information collected at this close proximity will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun and the processes that surround it, such as the solar wind.  

The solar wind links the Sun and the Earth, and drives space weather, which can have an impact on systems here on earth, such as satellites and communications networks.

Researchers will use data from the Parker Solar Probe to characterise the solar wind and observe how it changes with distance from the Sun. This information will help to solve long-standing questions about the heating of the Sun’s outer surface, known as the corona, and the movements of the solar wind.  

Studying the nature of the Universe

The research covered by this grant will focus on developing tools and techniques that will allow astronomers to study the universe from the smallest to the very largest scales.

Planetary scientists will investigate the formation of solar systems, using state-of-the art coding techniques to model proto-planetary discs. Other projects will focus on understanding the large-scale structure of the universe, with cosmologists developing new data analysis methods to support the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) radio telescope - the world's largest radio telescope - and studying the formation and distribution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies that make up the large structure.

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