University Of Cambridge-Astronomy

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University Of Cambridge-Astronomy

Department: Institute of Astronomy
Head of Department : Professor Douglas O Gough
Course and degrees offered: PhD (3 years)
Studentships available: PPARC, College Studentships and Isaac Newton Studentships
Average intake per year: 12

General Information:

The Institute of Astronomy represents the largest concentration of research astronomers in the United Kingdom comprising some eighteen academic staff, and approximately fifty postdoctoral workers and fifty graduate students. This is supplemented by numerous overseas Visiting Fellows whose presence helps to create a lively and stimulating research environment.

The Institute has access to excellent facilities for the pursuit of observational and theoretical astronomy. Major ground-based telescopes and space-based facilities provide the principal observational data and a number of staff are active 'guest observers' on space projects. Significant long-term programmes are underway on many of the world's largest telescopes and use is made of the on-site Automated Plate Measuring facility, a laser scanning photographic plate measuring machine, and the Cambridge Infrared Survey Instrument, in these and other PhD projects. The Institute's computing facilities comprise a large network of Sun and DEC workstations, together with the required peripherals and specialised software for theoretical modelling and analysis of astronomical data.

Investigations in observational astronomy include understanding the origin and evolution of galaxies and clusters, and the nature and distribution of visible and dark matter in the cosmos. Such fundamental questions are explored using a variety of observational techniques including studies of our own Galaxy, large surveys of faint galaxies and quasars, X-ray imaging and spectroscopy, the use of quasar absorption lines and gravitational lensing. There is also interest in the kinematics and geometry of quasar emission line regions, and the fuelling of active galactic nuclei. Additionally there are projects studying massive stars and supernovae, the structure and evolution of binary stars, and measurements of stellar radial velocities. Other observational programmes tackle the formation of stars, brown dwarfs and planets in young open clusters, and use direct and indirect imaging methods to search for planets around faint white dwarfs and pre-main sequence stars. White dwarfs are also the target of a programme to discover the oldest and coldest fossil remnants of the first instances of star formation in our Galaxy. Graduate students on observational projects usually make one or more visits to major observatories abroad. There is also an active instrumentation group, which enhances the observational work with novel state-of-the-art instruments well suited to the above science programmes.

For theorists, there is a large range of possible research topics. Stellar research concentrates on problems of stability and internal structures (including the Sun) as well as the final stages of stellar evolution. The physics of black holes, neutron stars and X- ray sources is also under active investigation. Extragalactic studies include the implications of the existence of dark matter, galaxy clustering, gamma ray bursters, galaxy formation and physical cosmology with recent emphasis on the epoch of reionization of the universe. Particularly important are those areas which complement the observational work of the Institute.

The Institute provides lecture courses for its research students in the first two years. In addition, there are regular seminars as well as annual conferences and summer schools to which overseas speakers are invited. The broad range of interests and expertise means that virtually all areas of astronomy are regularly discussed and new research projects are always being initiated.

Applicants are welcome to visit the Institute, by arrangement, to discuss possible research projects with the staff.

For further information write to:

Mrs B. Batey, Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0HA. Telephone 01223 337548.

This page updated 2nd October 2002


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