Image of galaxy

Exploring the makeup of the universe

Our research covers galaxies and stars, large-scale structures, gravitational waves and dark energy


The Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) is an international centre of research excellence in cosmology, gravitation and astrophysics.

Our Cosmology and Astrophysics research investigates the evolution of galaxies and their stars, the early universe and large-scale structure in the cosmos, as well as the energy content of the Universe and the nature of gravity. Through the work of the institute, we seek to understand the physics of the Universe and inspire the next generation of scientist through education, training and outreach. We also innovate using our advanced skills in mathematics and data science and have an in house supercomputer, called SCIAMA, to assist our data-intensive research. 100% of ICG research was judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent in the REF2021 Research Excellence Framework.

Scientists at the ICG play leading roles in major ongoing international collaborations and projects, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the European Space Agency Euclid satellite, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). Follow the links below for more details about these and many other projects that we are involved in at the ICG. 

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Cosmology and Astrophysics research

Research at the Institute covers theoretical and observational cosmology and astrophysics, and their interface, and is supported by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Royal Society, European Research Council (ERC) and European Union (EU) funding.

Within the 4 areas of expertise below, our work covers topics including the very early universe, dark energy, testing gravity on cosmological scales, large scale structure, gravitational lensing. supernovae, galaxy evolution, and stellar population modelling.

ICG projects

  • Tactile Universe

    We're creating 3D printed, tactile images of galaxies to engage persons with vision impairments or low vision with our astrophysics research.

  • The Nature of Supernovae

    Research that seeks to learn which types of stars die as supernova explosions and how those explosions occur.

Innovation at the ICG

Researchers at the ICG are problem solvers, gaining an understanding of the science of the Universe through the analysis of large datasets. The algorithms developed in cosmology research can be applied in other sectors to provide powerful insights from data. We are well versed in providing clear presentations from data with exciting visualisations.

Using our state-of-the-art supercomputer, SCIAMA, we are able to use advanced statistics and machine learning to identify correlations and anomalies in data sets.
Expertise developed in ICG research in cosmology is being used to address real-world problems.  We have worked with cardiology clinicians at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to develop a web based tool which guides treatment following cardiac arrest.  We are working with clinicians at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on a project to study the development of moles on the skin, using techniques developed for analysis of changes in the appearance of supernovae.

The ICG is also working with geoscientists at the University of Portsmouth to map landslides on a global scale, using our experience with maps of the cosmos.  This work will be of practical use to the insurance industry and those considering large infrastructure projects in developing countries. The ICG has also played a significant role in COVID-19 related projects: using satellite images to evaluate social distancing, using image analysis to measure the spread of cough droplets and analysing the University of Portsmouth’s in-house asymptomatic COVID testing results.

Moving forward we are investigating opportunities to apply image analysis tools within the space sector. The ICG hosts an annual data dive event, where postgraduate physics students from across the South-East are able to investigate data intensive problems.  Last year’s event investigated cardiology data with our colleagues from King’s College Hospital.

Teaching

Our world-leading scientists teach on our undergraduate and postgraduate maths and physics degree courses.

Undergraduate study

The University offers a range of undergraduate courses in mathematics and physics, including:

Postgraduate study

We also offer PhDs at the ICG – visit our Cosmology and Gravitation postgraduate research page for details of our current pre-approved funded and self-funded PhDs, and to find out more about our 2020 PhD studentships.

We welcome applications from all qualified applicants, but applications are particularly encouraged from traditionally under-represented groups in science. The University of Portsmouth holds an Athena SWAN bronze award and is an Institute of Physics Project Juno Supporter; these projects show a commitment to introduce organisational and cultural practices that promote gender equality in science and create a better working environment for men and women.

Our culture

Athena SWAN at the ICG

The Athena SWAN Charter was established by the Equality Challenge Unit to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

The University of Portsmouth has been awarded Athena SWAN Bronze as a Higher Education Institution, and the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation has been awarded an Athena SWAN Bronze award, in recognition of the good employment practice in place within the department.

Dignity and Respect in the ICG

We believe everyone has the right to work and study with dignity and respect, free from harassment and bullying. We're committed to widening participation in higher education, whether you are an undergraduate student, postgraduate student, postdoctoral researcher or staff member. It's essential we understand and accommodate everyone’s individual needs for our continued success.

Within the ICG, Laura Nuttall is our Dignity and Respect Champion – for more information on the work we're doing, email laura.nuttall@port.ac.uk.

Outreach and public engagement activities

We’re committed to making our astrophysics and cosmology research accessible to the wider world. We work with local schools to raise aspirations and inspire the next generation of scientists. We work with different communities to create public engagement projects that benefit us all. We enable people around the world to contribute to our research through online citizen science projects.

ICG outreach and public engagement is supported by the South East Physics Network (SEPnet)

The Zooniverse

The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. Tell us what shapes galaxies are in Galaxy Zoo or hunt for glitches in gravitational wave data in Gravity Spy

Cosmic Stroll

Take a virtual reality stroll through the cosmos in our Google Cardboard compatible mobile app. Download it from the Cosmic Stroll website

Tactile Universe

The Tactile Universe makes our astrophysics research accessible to people with vision impairments. Download the files to 3D print your own tactile image of a galaxy on the Tactile Universe website

STRAUSS

Sonification is the process of conveying data via the medium of sound. The STRAUSS python package is making sonification simple for both scientific and outreach applications.

Stellarium

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer that we use in the ICG Astrodome (inflatable planetarium). 

We focus our schools outreach work (key stage 2 - 4) on engaging with three partner secondary schools in Portsmouth and their feeder primary/junior schools. We run a programme of events and activities for Year 5 - 10 (age 9 - 15) so that pupils in these schools interact with us multiple times throughout their school career. By moving away from one-off interactions to a sustained programme of repeat engagement with the same children, we aim to increase our impact on the children we work with.

Our strategic approach to schools outreach means we have limited capacity to work with additional schools. Any events that are open to schools outside of our programme will be advertised and booked through the University of Portsmouth Recruitment and Outreach Team. However, if you have any questions about our schools outreach programme, or the ICG outreach and public engagement strategy, then please contact Dr Jen Gupta (jennifer.gupta@port.ac.uk).

Physics outreach to key stage 5 students (age 16 - 18) is organised by the Faculty of Technology. This includes Physics Taster Days at the university and talks in colleges. For more information please contact the Faculty of Technology Outreach Coordinator, James Allen, on stemoutreach@port.ac.uk.

We believe that public engagement is an essential part of doing research. Members of our local community can find out more about our research at the annual public Stargazing at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard event that we host in collaboration with the National Museum of the Royal Navy. We understand that public engagement isn’t ‘one size fits all’ and work with our community partners from the start to create public engagement projects that meet both of our needs.

Follow us on social media to be the first to hear about any public events.

The ICG is home to the Tactile Universe, a project to open up topics in astrophysics to young people with vision impairments. We have created lesson plans and activities that use tactile images of galaxies and other astronomical objects, and trained people across the UK to use and deliver workshops using these resources. For more information, please visit the Tactile Universe website.

ICG leadership

Image of Professor Adam Amara

Professor Adam Amara

  • Job Title Professor of Cosmology
  • Email Address adam.amara@port.ac.uk
  • Faculty Faculty of Technology
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor
Image of Professor David Bacon

Professor David Bacon

  • Job Title Professor of Cosmology
  • Email Address David.Bacon@port.ac.uk
  • Faculty Faculty of Technology
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor

Contact us

Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation
Dennis Sciama Building
Burnaby Road
Portsmouth
PO1 3FX

Telephone: +44 (0)23 9284 5151

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