Astrophysics Group

Cavendish Laboratory

Research old

The Astrophysics Group carries out a wide range of research programmes, with particular emphasis on the fields of optical interferometry, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, star formation and galaxy evolution. Our activities in these areas embrace the confrontation between observation and theory and the development of instrumentation and technology. For observational work we use a wide range of facilities worldwide in addition to those we have been involved in building.

Locally we operate the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory a few miles outside Cambridge, where we have developed world-class telescopes including the Ryle Telescope, the Cambridge Optical Aperture Synthesis Telescope (COAST) and the Very Small Array. The VSA is a telescope for studying the CMB and was developed jointly with Jodrell Bank and the IAC Tenerife (where it is now located). The telescopes at Lord’s Bridge have now been joined by the Arcminute MicroKelvin Imager (AMI), which images the CMB at high resolution. This consists of a Small Array of ten 4-metre telescopes, and a Large Array composed of eight 13-metre dishes of the Ryle Telescope, which have been moved into a new configuration. Internationally we are major partners in the design and construction of various leading-edge instruments including a Heterodyne Array Receiver for B-band (HARP-B) – the latest in a line of submillimetre-wave receivers which have been developed for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, and we are strongly involved in the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) – a worldwide collaborative project to build a high-resolution millimetre-wave telescope in Chile. Our pioneering work in optical interferometry has led to our being partners in the development and construction of a major new instrument, the Magdalena Ridge Optical Interferometer (MROI) being constructed in New Mexico.

There is an increasing theoretical component in the work of the AP Group, both in terms of fundamental physics (in application to relativity and cosmology) and as modelling and simulation assume more prominent roles in the areas of cosmology and astrophysics. Data analysis in the CMB area has become a highly-developed subject in its own right – jointly with the Institute of Astronomy, we are a designated centre for scientific analysis of data from the Planck Surveyor satellite, due for launch in 2008. A further major, and developing, area of the Group’s activity lies in our involvement in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This is a worldwide endeavour to create a telescope spanning frequencies from about 200 MHz to 20 GHz, with a total collecting area of 1 square kilometre, and with the possibility of simultaneous observation of many patches on the sky. Such a telescope would enable fundamental advances in many areas of astrophysics and cosmology, and we are major partners in a European design study (SKADS), aimed at understanding the fundamental design and scientific issues for such an instrument.

If you are interested in doing research in any of the areas described, find out a little more using the links on the left and then visit our Graduate Research Opportunities web pages.