Research Topics

Research at Armagh ranges from the study of objects within the Solar System to distant galaxies. Astronomers make use of ground based telescopes such as ESO’s VLT, the Swedish Solar Telescope, radio telescopes like the Mopra millimetre-wave telescope and JCMT sub-millimetre telescope, satellites such as Kepler and K2, and use high performance computing to simulate observations and compute models.  We also undertake research into the history of observatories and planetaria.

Solar research uses data from spacecraft and ground-based facilities to study fundamental questions such as how the Sun’s outer atmosphere is heated, what drives the solar wind and the Sun’s variable magnetic activity and how likely is a super-flare from the Sun which seriously disrupts life on Earth?

People: Gerry Doyle, Nived Vilangot Nahlil, Jeremy Rigney

Solar System research encompasses the dynamical structure, evolution and origin of objects in the inner and outer solar system. Addressing these questions can give insight into the life of the Solar System and stars with exoplanets. Observations from Earth can also determine the composition of asteroids which is becoming a key science area, with a number of space missions actually landing on them, and from international mining companies.

People: Apostolos Christou, Stefano Bagnulo, Galin Borisov, Zuri Gray, Alice Humpage

Stellar and Galactic research includes investigations into the formation and evolution of massive stars, taking into account factors such as mass loss through stellar winds. Other research examines evolved stars through detailed modelling of their evolution and spectroscopic and photometric observations. Other research makes detailed observations of magnetic fields and studying compact binary systems through wide-field photometric surveys and X-ray and other telescopes. In radio waves research is on-going to map giant molecular clouds and star-formation regions in our Galaxy.

People: Stefano Bagnulo, Michael Burton, Simon Jeffery, Gavin Ramsay, Jorick Vink, Erin Higgins, Laura Scott, Kerem Cubuk, Eliceth Rojasmontes, Gautham Sabhahit, Edward Snowdon, Chris Duffy, Ethan Winch

Extragalactic research at AOP focuses on the use of integral-field spectroscopy to mapping the motions and basic properties of gas and stars in external galaxies. These observations can be used to derive the relative contribution of stars, dark matter and supermassive black holes (SMBH) to the total mass of galaxies, as well as understanding their star-formation history, the origin and fate of their gas, and the role played by SMBH in galaxy evolution.

People: Marc Sarzi, Martiza Lara-Lopez, Pablo Galan de Anta

Thanks also to funding from our sponsor department DfC, AOP is a full partner in international projects such as SALT which is the biggest telescope staring at the southern sky, the new Solar Telescope DKIST which is being built in Maui in Hawaii; the low frequency radio array I-LOFAR which astronomers are using to study flares from stars; CTA which will detect the highest energy gamma-rays and is being built in La Palma and Chile and the Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer survey telescope on La Palma GOTO whose prime goal is to detect the optical counterpart of gravitational wave events. AOP also uses the JCMT telescope in Hawaii measuring millimetre-wavelength radiation from star forming regions.

People: Gerry Doyle, Gavin Ramsay, Michael Burton, David Eden, Simon Jeffery

AOP now also conducts research into the history of astronomy, building upon the remarkable scientific heritage of the Observatory.  With both the oldest continuously operating observatory and planetarium in Britain and Ireland, our research here focuses on the history of the observatory (founded 1790) and its telescopes, and of the planetarium (opened 1968).  The origins of the modern astronomical observatory can still be seen today in the domes and telescopes of Armagh Observatory, whereas our research on the Planetarium focuses on its role as a theatre of the cosmos through performance, space and science.  We are also supported through the AHRC Northern Bridge and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) for this work.


People: Michael Burton, Aaron Black, Matthew McMahon.

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