Spiral Galaxy

Astrophysics research

Explore our work in astrophysics, one of our areas of expertise within Cosmology and Astrophysics | Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We're researching astrophysics to better understand the basic building blocks of our Universe. We're looking at the origin of stars, the formation and evolution of galaxies, and stellar population models.

Galaxies are massive collections of stars, gas, dust and dark matter, bound together by gravity. We study how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time using stellar population modelling, and also inform cosmological surveys, which use galaxies as tracers for the structure of the Universe. Our research, much of which takes place within the University's Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, tells us about the basic physics of star formation and the content of the Universe.

Galaxy evolution

Our research into galaxy evolution covers galaxies from the most local to some of the most distant objects known. We search for clues into how they developed by looking at the types of stars and the star formation histories of galaxies. Studying the elemental make up of the stars and gas in a galaxy reveals orbital dynamics – either through stellar or gaseous kinematics or in a frozen snapshot in the galaxy morphology.

Our researchers are involved in leading astronomical surveys that help us map and understand galaxies and the processes within them. We use the surveys to explore what galaxies can tell us about the past, present and future of the Universe.

Astronomical surveys we're involved in:

Stellar population modelling

The dark Universe is filled with dazzling galaxies, which shine in virtue of their stellar content. Stellar radiation, which reaches us from the most remote regions of the Universe, can be modelled following robust physical principles. The light emitted can be used as a probe of galaxy structure formation and evolution and as a cosmic chronometer.

Stellar population models are central to astrophysics and cosmology. We research stellar population modelling to predict and describe the evolution of galaxies.

A galaxy can contain billions of stars. The total energetics emission of a galaxy is the sum of the light from all its stars, which depends on stellar energetics, lifetimes and the stellar initial mass function. It also depends on parameters that are specific to the different galaxies such as history of star formation, chemical composition and dust content.

Researchers at our Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, Prof Claudia Maraston and Prof Daniel Thomas, are world leaders in the field of stellar population modelling. Their recent results include the calculation and analysis of models at high spectral resolution.

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Astrophysics is one of the 4 areas of expertise within the Cosmology and Astrophysics research area – explore the others here.

Theoretical cosmology

We're exploring the inflation of the very early Universe, the impact of dark energy on its geometry and developing tests to monitor its expansion.

galaxy space
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Gravitational waves

We're detecting cosmic gravitational waves and developing gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool.

Illustration of 2 merging black holes and the gravitational waves that ripple outward
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Observational Cosmology

We're mapping the Universe on the largest scales to understand dark energy, studying the clustering of galaxies and dark matter, and observing transient events and supernovae.

Nebulas and stars
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Research groups

Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation

Researchers at our Institute of Cosmology & Gravitation explore the evolution of our Universe and aim to inspire the next generation of scientists. 

galaxy space
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Applied Physics Research Group

We're exploring research in quantum information technologies, quantum optics and quantum foundations and applied advanced materials.

Close up of Molecular Beam Epitaxy system
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Interested in a PhD in Cosmology and Astrophysics?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Cosmology and Astrophysics postgraduate research degrees page.