Category Archives: Astrophysics Research

A Long Time Ago in a Dusty Galaxy Far Away

Dust is a very important element present everywhere in the Universe. In particular, dust attenuation absorbs, scatters and re-emits light.  Nevertheless, not much is known on how dust affects light from galaxies at high redshift, since it is difficult to observe them. Mónica Tress, a final-year-PhD explains more about how dust attenuation effects are studied in galaxies far away.

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SPINS UK Meeting 29th May and Public Lecture on Gravitational Waves

After the first hugely successful meeting at UEA last year, this year UCL will host the 2nd meeting of the SPINS-UK Consortium. MSSL has a particularly strong involvement with this event: Prof. Silvia Zane is one of the scientific organisers, whilst postdoc Ziri Younsi along with PhD students Nabil Brice and Tom Kimpson all on the local organising committee. In addition to an extensive programme of scientific talks covering a range of neutron-star related science, there will also be discussion to address Brexit and the impact on scientific research and a public lecture (http://www.spins-uk.net/public-lecture.html) on gravitational waves by Prof. Alberto Vecchio of the University of Birmingham.

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Neighbourhood Astrophysics: Detecting Gamma-ray Flashes above the Earth

Many of our Astro PhD students partake in other projects outside of their area of research. Ahlam Al Qasim (a 2nd year PhD student) and Aisha AlMannaei (a 1st year PhD student) are both working on Cubesat RAAD (Rapid Acquisition Atmospheric Detector), a mission recently funded by the UAE Space Agency through winning the Mini-satellite competition held last year. The competition was seeking out proposals from university students across the UAE for a science mission to be integrated on a Cubesat, with a launch opportunity in 2020. Their mission is aimed at studying the phenomenon of Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes (TGFs), which are highly energetic events emitted via thundercloud activity in Earth’s atmosphere. Ahlam is the student PI of the science case and TGF simulations, and Aisha is the student PI for the detector development. Here, they discuss how the project was initiated and eventually extended to a fully funded mission, and what their current roles are.

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Cosmic rays: the secret agent of galaxy evolution

Cosmic rays are rays of energetic particles and radiation, with their composition in our own Galaxy being dominated by protons. Ellis Owen, a final-year PhD student working on cosmic rays, star-formation and galaxy evolution, tells us about his research on them.

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A Graduate Traineeship at ESA: Working on the James Webb Space Telescope

Not all PhD students join us directly after finishing their Master degree studies. Anurag Deshpande, a first year PhD student, spent a year working at the European Space Agency (ESA), as a Young Graduate Trainee (YGT). With the application process for the next round of YGTs now open, he discusses his time working on the James Webb Space Telescope, how he found the experience, and how it continues to influence him in his PhD research.

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Ardingly students at MSSL: our week-long walk through the Universe

At the end of June, we had the opportunity to work at MSSL with Dr. Ignacio Ferreras for one week. As college (high school) students interested in pursuing careers in science and/or engineering, this was the perfect opportunity for us to not only get a taste of what research is like at the frontiers of science, but also to experience in first person the daily life of a scientist.

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The exceptionally long follow-up of the X-ray afterglow of GRB 130427: what it means for GRB physics.

The Swift satellite, part of which was built at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, detected the remarkable Gamma-ray Burst (GRB) 130427A about 3 years ago. This burst has the highest fluence (energy divided by surface) of the over 1000 events detected by Swift and indeed by any space observatory for 30 years.

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Studying magnetized neutron stars thought their polarized emission

Neutrons stars are one of the final stages of the stellar evolution of a massive star, in which a compact object made mostly of neutrons is left after a supernova event[1]. With masses ~ 1.5 M and radii of the order of ~ 10 km, neutron stars have an average density of ~ 1014 – 1015 gr cm-3, which is comparable to the density of an atomic nucleus (~2 . 1014 gr cm-3). Due to their high densities, they have strong surface gravitational fields and quantum effects dominate the properties of matter in their interiors.

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Gamma-ray astronomy with your smartphone

Cosmic rays are rays of particles and radiation emitted from various astrophysical environments, for instance shocks, Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), Puslar Wind Nebulae and Supernova Remnants. We can observe these cosmic rays from the Earth, and their spectrum takes on a distinctive power-law shape with a peak at a few GeV (billions of electron volts, eV), and ‘knee’ features around 4 and 400 PeV (1 PeV = 1015 eV = 1 000 000 000 000 000 eV), with an ‘ankle’ at 1 EeV (1 EeV = 1018 eV). The lower energy Cosmic Rays are thought to originate within our galaxy, while higher energy ones come from further afield, providing astronomers with a different way to probe the cosmos, without using conventional observations of electromagnetic radiation.

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