Merseyside Astronomy Day

This week it was a pleasure to speak at Merseyside Astronomy Day, sponsored by the ARI’s distance learning programme, and hosted by Liverpool’s World Museum. Nearly 100 members of the public attended to hear from four professional astronomers about their research, and it was a lot of fun to chat to them. There were some very perceptive questions in the Q&A session!

Many thanks to the ARI’s Andy Newsam and David Hyder for their hard work setting up an enjoyable day.

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Thanks to @Spyder_Webb for the photo.

Royal Society symposium

This week Prof Nate Bastian and I, along with Prof. Mark Gieles of the University of Surrey, hosted a Royal Society International Scientific Symposium at Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire. The symposium brought together 20 astrophysicists from around the world to discuss how to incorporate models of globular cluster formation and evolution into cosmological simulations, and how observations of globular clusters can be used to inform the study of galaxy evolution. Our thanks to all the attendees, the Royal Society, and the staff at Chicheley Hall for making the symposium a great success.

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PRACE time for EAGLE-XL

Today the EAGLE team has been awarded an initial computing time allocation of 30 million core-hours via the PRACE network. This allocation is to conduct the EAGLE-XL simulations, which will extend the EAGLE suite of galaxy formation simulations to larger cosmic volumes, affording us better statistical sampling and enabling examination of rare cosmic structures such as galaxy clusters. The simulations will be conducted using the PizDaint facility in Switzerland, the most powerful supercomputer in Europe.

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MDAR paper in PRL

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This week we’ve had a letter accepted for publication the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters. The letter, led by my colleague Aaron Ludlow (Durham), examines the relationship between centripetal acceleration and mass, of galaxies in the EAGLE galaxy formation simulations. The observed relationship, often called the “mass discrepancy – acceleration relation”, or MDAR, has been cited as a challenge to the LambdaCDM cosmogony. We found that galaxies in the simulations, which are built on the LambdaCDM framework, in fact yield the same acceleration-mass profile as real galaxies. This undermines the argument that this particular observable poses a challenge to the prevailing cosmological framework.

Meeting of minds

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Today I am at the Royal Society HQ to sit on the science working group for the forthcoming “Meeting of Minds” fellows’ conference. We have around 200 fantastic abstracts to mull over, so it could be a long and fascinating day!

Hubble for Christmas

One of my favourite twitter accounts is Hubble Live, which tells you in real time the observations that the Hubble Space Telescope is taking, and who they are for. We received a nice tweet on Dec 28th:

informing us that Hubble was busy collecting photons for our QSAGE project, which is led by my colleague Rich Bielby at Durham. A nice belated Christmas present for the QSAGE team!

VoT clips now on YouTube

Sequences rendered by Jim Geach and I for the IMAX feature Voyage of Time, using HPC facilities at LJMU and the University of Hertfordshire, are now publicly available via the IMAX YouTube channel:


In these, Jim and I discuss simulations of galaxy formation, including the EAGLE simulations (see also on ADS) and exploding stars. We’ve also rendered a simulation of the formation of the first stars in the Universe, which is discussed by Prof. Volker Bromm of the University of Texas: