As our nearest star, the Sun's influence dominates within the Solar System. Our research focuses on how the energy output varies on a number of time scales, ranging from very short-lived and highly energetic flares to long-term changes that result from variations in the Sun's surface magnetic flux distribution and may influence the Earth's climate.
Stars, planets and origins
Understanding the formation, evolution and properties of stars and planets in our galaxy, placing our own Solar System in this larger context and, ultimately, deciphering the origins of life, is the oldest astronomical endeavour, and remains one of the cornerstones of modern astrophysical research. At Imperial, we address these issues through a wide variety of observational and theoretical techniques.
ICIC - Imperial Center for Inference and Cosmology
ICIC aims to address the statistical challenges posed by massive and complex data streams in astrophysics, astroparticle physics, and cosmology. It is a collaborative effort between the Astrophysics Group and the Statistics Section at Imperial College London. We are spearheading the establishment of astrostatistics as a discipline capable of providing accurate, robust and insightful answers to complex theoretical problems in astrophysics, cosmology and astroparticle physics.
The different evolutionary histories of stars of different masses are understood quite well. Galaxies are more complex, because they are affected by environment, and feedback, and they contain dark matter, supermassive black holes, and dust. The grand goal is to develop a theory which explains the full range of structures we see in our telescopes. Our research in this area is mostly observational, gathering data on galaxies at wavelengths from X-rays to radio, with which to confront theoretical predictions.
Cosmology and astroparticle physics
Cosmology is the science of studying the Universe as a whole, its origin, its composition and its properties. We are interested in investigating the cosmic microwave background, the relic radiation from the Big Bang, and in developing and deploying advanced statistical techniques to compare theory and observations. We are also at the forefront of dark matter research, using multiple probes from cosmology, astroparticle physics and colliders to identify and characterise the nature of dark matter.
Missions and facilities
The Astrophysics Group is involved in a wide range of major projects covering areas of astrophysics from the local galactic environment to the cosmic microwave background and the beginning of the universe. Some of these use major satellite observatories, such as the Herschel and Planck satellites launched in the middle of 2009. Others use existing ground and space based observatories such as the Chandra X-ray satellite or the James Clarke Maxwell Telescope, while still more are in the early stages of planning such as the IXO International X-Ray Observatory.