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  • Research at the Institute

    A high redshift cluster of galaxies

    Cosmological Mass Assembly

    The accumulation of bound dark matter haloes through gravity is now a reasonably well understood process. The current challenge in galaxy formation has now shifted to understanding the evolution of the baryonic physics within dark matter haloes on small scales up to the size of rich clusters. Key to this is measuring the distribution of mass: across the galaxy population, within galaxies, and within groups and clusters.

    Galaxy Transformation in Dense Environments

    The evolution of galaxies is driven by their environment, and is therefore most extreme in the dense environments of rich galaxy clusters. Researchers at the ARI are tackling this through a detailed multi-wavelength study of the richest nearby cluster, Coma, and an e-MERLIN Legacy Programme study of four intermediate-redshift clusters, called AGATE.

    Computational Cosmology

    The Computational Cosmology group at LJMU works on many aspects of galaxy formation and evolution from a theoretical perspective. Our work spans the formation of the smallest galaxies up to the most massive structures in the Universe. We employ state-of-the-art N-body and cosmological hydrodynamical codes run on some of the largest (academic) high performance computing (HPC) facilities in Europe.

    Faint Radio Source Population

    The next decade will see the construction and operation of three "next-generation" radio telescopes -- LOFAR, ASKAP, and MeerKAT -- as well as upgrades to e-MERLIN and the EVLA. These new facilities will dramatically expand our knowledge of the radio sky and act as pathfinders for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Research at the ARI is focussed on understanding the radio source populations at the faintest fluxes with a view to extracting the maximum science from future radio surveys.

    Neutral hydrogen and stars in a barred Seyfert galaxy

    Structure and Dynamics of Galaxies

    Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are now thought to represent an important stage in the evolution of most, if not all luminous galaxies, with matter accreted by ubiquitous black holes powering prodigious energy outputs. Emerging studies of stellar and gaseous kinematics are now highlighting the dynamic nature of the evolving host. Our group investigates the fuel supply mechanisms to the central back holes and their relation to galactic host, using 3-D imaging spectroscopic techniques at optical, IR and radio wavelengths covering a wide range of size scales for statistically significant samples, coupled with numerical simulations at comparable resolution to observations.

    Artist's impression of a GRB. Copyright NASA/amended Mundell

    Gamma Ray Bursts

    Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) are the most instantaneously powerful explosions in the Universe, and represent the most significant new astrophysical phenomenon since the discovery of quasars and pulsars. Despite their enormous luminosity, their unpredictability and short duration have challenged traditional observing methods and led to the development of new ground and space-based facilities optimised for rapid response. Our team is active in the observational and theoretical study of GRBs in this new era of rapid followup.

    Astronomical Instrumentation

    The instrumentation group at ARI has a wide range of interests in optical and near-IR instrumentation, including its design and construction as well as software for both single instruments and homogeneous and heterogenous networks of instruments.

    The principal focus of the group is new instrumentation projects for the 2.0-metre, fully robotic Liverpool Telescope for which the group also has the responsibility of operation and maintenance. However the group is also involved in other projects such as those developing of new standards for telescope interoperability and the WEAVE spectrograph for the WHT.

    Hot Stars and Their Circumstellar Environments

    The formation of circumstellar disks around rapidly rotating hot stars remains poorly understood. A number of programmes on the Liverpool Telescope are underway to try and understand the timescales of variability in these objects for large samples of both isolated ("classical") Be stars and those in binary systems with neutron stars ("High Mass X-ray Binaries").

    Hypervelocity Stars

    Hypervelocity stars (HVSs) are stars with velocities great enough to allow their escape from the Milky Way Galaxy, and they are a natural consequence of the existence of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Galaxy. When a binary swings too close to the central black hole, the tidal force can tear the binary apart, capturing one star while violently flinging the other outward at enormous speed. Research on HVSs at the ARI is focused on understanding the the tidal encounter process and implications to planetary science.

    Nova Explosions

    Classical Novae, and the closely related Recurrent Novae, rank amongst the most energetic stellar phenomena in the Universe. Only gamma ray bursts (GRBs), Supernovae (SNe) and a handful of Luminous Blue Variables (LBVs) are more energetic. Yet novae are far more commonplace than any of these, with an estimated 30 outbursts per year in our own Galaxy alone. Nova research at the ARI focusses on using observations across the electromagnetic spectrum to understand more about the physics of the explosions themselves and more widely about novae as a class. Our work then informs wider topics such as proposed links between Recurrent Novae and the progenitors of Type Ia Supernovae.

    Stellar Evolution and Stellar Population Synthesis

    The theory of stellar evolution is a fundamental tool to understand the chemical evolution of the universe. It also provides powerful techniques to study the timescales for the formation of simple and composite stellar systems, as well as cosmic yardsticks to estimate cosmic distances and investigate the kinematical status of the universe. Stellar evolution models are also crucial to intepret asteroseismological observations, and evolutionary calculations of planet host stars are paramount to determine evolutionary scenarios for extrasolar planet systems. A number of research programmes at ARI is at the forefront of the research in this field.


    Research on supernovae (SNe) at the ARI is focused on understanding the progenitors of these explosions. We use our own data as well as data obtained as part of our involvement in the Palomar Transient Factory follow-up groups on SNe. This is done in a statistical way by looking at the relation between SNe locations in their host galaxies and Hα light. We are also extracting fundamental parameters (mass of nickel, energy, total ejected mass) out of the light curves, in order to constrain explosion models.

    Transient Science with LOFAR

    LOFAR is a new type of radio telescope operating at low frequencies (30-200 MHz). Its revolutionary design allows it to observe a large fraction of the sky at a high cadence (i.e. very often). It will thus find many variable and transient objects. We follow many LOFAR transients with the Liverpool Telescope in order to characterise them and understand their physics.

    A Herschel image of a 2-degree section of the Galactic Plane

    The Physics of Triggered Star Formation

    The quest to identify and quantify the dominant mechanisms that control the process of star formation is fundamental to the whole of Astrophysics and the means to achieve it are now available, in the form of large surveys of the Galaxy at infrared, sub-millimetre and radio wavelengths, and high resolution observations of nearby extragalactic systems.

    Accretion and Outflow in Young Stars

    The mechanism by which young stars form is still poorly understood, though through wide-field surveys such as UWISH2 and detailed studies using a variety of spectroscopic techniques, researchers at the ARI are actively contributing to this area of research. LJMU also hosts the catalogue of Molecular Hydrogen emission-line Objects, or MHOs. The catalogue contains coordinates and images of over 1300 emission-line features associated with jets and outflows from young stars.

    ARI Publications

    Journal Club - 25 AprRich Williams

    Seminar - 30 AprMark Swinbank (Durham)
    First results from two ALMA surveys of sub-mm galaxies in the ECDFS and UDS fields (...more)

    Seminar - 07 MayMatt Bershady (Wisconsin)
    TBC (...more)

    Seminar - 14 MayKate Maguire (ESO)
    TBC (...more)

    Seminar - 21 MayAnnette Ferguson (Edinburgh)
    TBC (...more)


    Merseyside Astronomy Day IX Saturday, Apr 26, 2014
    The event will include a series of talks from a range of professional astrophysicists, with some additions this year in our new venue including an Ask the Astronomer panel session and an exhibition.
    For further details and full programme including how to book, click here

    NEWS - 04 Apr 2014 LJMU Astronomers challenge cosmological model (...details)

    NEWS - 23 Jan 2014 A remarkable recurrent nova in M31 (...details)

    NEWS - 10 Dec 2013 Cosmic traffic jam probed by giant robot (...details)

    NEWS - 06 Dec 2013 150th Anniversary of UK-Japan Academic Interaction (...details)

    NEWS - 28 Nov 2013 Liverpool Telescope goes comet chasing with Sky at Night (...details)

    Liverpool Telescope National Schools Observatory
    Spaceport Times Higher Award 2007