cosmology astrophysics

Deepen your understanding of the origins of the universe, and study some of the biggest and smallest elements in existence

3 min read

Have you ever wondered what a galaxy is? Or what was the Big Bang? Is it possible that life might exist on other planets?

These are some of the big questions that you could help researchers from our Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation try to answer. Astronomers take the laws of physics that work here on Earth, and use them to understand more about stars, galaxies and even the entire Universe.

Careers in Cosmology

Cosmology combines both Physics and Astrophysics to explore ideas and theories about how the Universe formed and how it has developed over time. If you’re curious about the world we live in, fascinated by all the possibilities of the universe, and have an interest in Physics, a career in Cosmology might be for you.

Students who choose to study Astrophysics or Cosmology will deepen their understanding of the laws of Physics and use this to understand more about some of the biggest and smallest elements in existence. 

Cosmology students work in industries such as:

  • Astronomy and theoretical physics
  • Space systems and aerospace industry
  • Education
  • Scientific journalism
  • Medical physics
  • Data analysis

What jobs can you do with a Cosmology and Astrophysics degree?

Careers in astronomy, cosmology and physics are truly diverse. From roles such as planetary geologists, astrobiologists, cosmologists and telescope design engineers. To academic research, earth sciences and software development.

You'll develop your skills in things like physics, mathematics, statistics and computer programming. And in this field, your passion for problem-solving will help you traverse through many industries and maybe even all corners of the Universe.

Explore the study of light and spectra

Astrophysicists and cosmologists use the study of light and spectra to look at distant stars, planets and galaxies.

They may be researching the temperature or density of an element in a star, or studying the properties of the material interacting with things in space. Here, you'll discover how they use light and spectra, and some of the things you might do in your future career in the field.

Learn more about the visible light spectrum, refraction and diffraction

Light and Spectra

This short video provides an overview of the light spectrum and a simple way to view light spectra in your own home.

In a similar way to how you'll have seen different spectra from different light sources, different objects in space have different spectra as well. This is usually to do with the chemical elements that they are made from.

This next video explains more about why we see different spectra and how they are used by Astronomers to identify whether there may be life on other planets or asteroids in space.

Using Spectra in Astronomy

How can spectra be used?

Dr Jen Gupta demonstrates how Spectra is used in Astronomy, and asks how it can be used to determine the likelihood of life on distant planets.

How are ICG researchers using spectra to understand the Universe?

In the previous activity, you’ve seen just one of the many ways that astronomers can use spectra to study distant objects and learn more about the Universe.

Take a look at some of the other ways that researchers at our Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation are using spectra in their work.

To study super massive black holes:

Dr Becky Canning studies the spectra from the gas surrounding super massive black holes and the galaxies which contain them. Using these spectra, Becky wants to understand how these black holes affect the galaxies that host them, as well as the environments these galaxies live in.

To understand how galaxies evolve:

Professor Daniel Thomas uses the spectra of galaxies to study their chemical elements and the particular populations of stars contained within different galaxy types. He is using a methodology very similar to what archaeologists do by estimating the ages of galaxies from the ratio of chemical elements. Daniel’s research helps astronomers better understand how galaxies form and evolve over time.

To use gas to map the structure of the Universe

Professor David Bacon is figuring out how to use the spectra of the hydrogen gas in and around distant galaxies in radio wavelengths. By detecting and mapping the position of this gas, David will be a member of a science team providing a picture of the large-scale web-like structure formed by groups of galaxies in the Universe.


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