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Astrophysics Research Centre

Research Strategies

The major research themes in the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) at Queen's focus on the dynamic universe.  Time domain studies illustrate the universe is an evolving and exciting laboratory in which to study physics on large scales.  We search for distant supernovae and their progenitor stars to understand what drives these explosions.  We study the asteroid and comet population in the solar system and have built instruments to take high-frequency observations of the solar surface.

The discovery of planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy (exoplanets) is one of the most active new areas in astronomy.  ARC's research teams lead exoplanet discovery and characterisation projects aimed at finding new worlds like our own.

All these projects are focused on exploiting or building new observational facilities and are underpinned by the development of theoretical models such as astrochemistry models of star-forming discs and exoplanets, supernova physics, energy transport in the sun, stellar atmospheres, and atomic physics.

We lead major European consortia within, for example, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and these programmes are supported by external grant funding of over £10m (in the last four years), including major UK STFC, Royal Society, and EU grants.


Research Strengths

Recent observational research highlights include finding dozens of extra-solar planets, discovering giant twisting waves in the sun, and studying an asteroid before it entered the Earth's atmosphere.

We have also identified progenitor stars of supernovae before they exploded, and discovered some of the most luminous explosions in the universe.  All of these results have been highlighted in recent papers in Science and Nature, illustrating the leading and novel nature of our research.

We train and encourage students and Postdoctoral researchers to lead these research projects. Students have the opportunity to spend extensive periods at world-leading research centres such as the ESO and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


Special Features

  • ARC is a leading partner in facilities to discovery exoplanets (SuperWASP, HARPS-N and the Next Generation Transit Survey) and in the Pan-STARRS programme to identify moving and explosive phenomena.
  • ARC built and runs a state-of-the-art, high-speed solar imager, called ROSA. We lead the development of a first light camera for the world’s largest solar telescope under construction in Hawaii (the  Advanced Technology Solar Telescope).
  • ARC is involved in the development of world-class astronomical facilities and exploits the UK's access to ESO and ESA facilities.  We are leading members of the UK consortium joining the future Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the Pan-STARRS survey, and are members of the EUCLID and European Extremely Large Telescope science and project teams.



Professor Stephen Smartt, Director of Research

Tel: 028 9097 1245

Fax: 028 9097 3110

Physics Building
School of Mathematics and Physics
Queen's University Belfast
University Road

ARC website