School of Physics and Astronomy

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The Astronomy Unit

Astronomy is the study of stars, planets, galaxies and the Universe as a whole. Beyond our own Solar System we now know that the Milky Way contains a host of other exotic planets in orbit around distant stars. These stars and planets can tell us a great deal about the formation of our own cosmic neighbourhood, but beyond even them, in the farther reaches of space, we can see myriad other galaxies. These stretch back in time to when the Universe was dense and hot, and provide us with ways to study not only the content of the Universe, but the very space and time that make up the Universe itself.

The research interests in the Astronomy Unit at Queen Mary University of London encompass all of these scales, from the fantastical to the barely imaginable. Members of the Astronomy Unit study our neighbours in the Solar System, for example using NASA satellites to probe the mysteries of the rings of Saturn and turning up surprising results about even this nearby planet. Others hunt for planets around nearby stars, using some of the world’s most sophisticated telescopes to detect the tiny telltale signs of distant worlds, some of which are expected to resemble the Earth itself (though most are very different). Other members of the Group specialise in developing theoretical models of how planets form and evolve, complementing the observational studies. Others explore the vast reaches of the Universe, using the biggest telescopes to study distant galaxies in an effort to understand how they formed and how they evolve. Cosmologists in the Astronomy Unit study the full evolution of the Universe, from the stages of rapid expansion immediately after the Big Bang, to the complex structures we see around us today. This research is, in many cases, conducted within international collaborations, and the Astronomy Unit has contributed to a number of significant discoveries in recent years (see specific research pages for more information).

The Astronomy Unit currently contains 16 full-time permanent members, as well as postdocs and PhD students. We support undergraduate teaching of astronomy and astrophysics within the School of Physics & Astronomy, as well a postgraduate research and training. Queen Mary is a member of SEPnet, the South East Physics Network, a consortium of nine partner universities working together to advance and sustain Physics as a strategically important subject for the UK economy and its science base in the South East Region of England. The Astronomy Unit is part of SEPnet-Astro.

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