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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory
 

In Cavendish Astrophysics we use the Universe as a Physics Laboratory, to study fundamental Physics and try to answer some of the most important outstanding questions in Science:

  • What is the best model representing the origin and evolution of the Cosmos and what are its fundamental constants?
  • What are Dark Matter and Dark Energy and what role they play in the evolution of the Cosmos?
  • When and how did the first celestial objects form and how did they shape the Universe?
  • How did the first heavy elements form? 
  • When and how did the first black holes and galaxies form and what can we know about their cosmic evolution?
  • How do planetary systems form?
  • What is the origin and nature of life in the Universe?

This theme focuses on observational studies of the unexplored Universe; from its very first moments, through the mysterious early epochs when the Cosmos became the complex realm of celestial objects we know it to be, all the way to the late evolution of stars, galaxies and all other astronomical objects, including the detection and study of exoplanets and life in the Universe. 

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Researchers associated with this theme

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Research areas

 

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

We study the physics of the unknown infant Universe via observations of the 21-cm line from cosmic Hydrogen: the Dark Ages before the first light, the Cosmic Dawn, and the subsequent Epoch of Re-ionization, when the Universe transitioned from a mostly empty volume after the Big Bang to the realm of celestial objects we can see today from Earth. To do this we use radio telescopes and data analysis techniques of our own conception. We lead the REACH (Radio Experiment for the Analysis of Cosmic Hydrogen) sky-averaged experiment, seeking to understand when and how the first luminous objects in the sky formed and transformed the Universe. We have leading roles in other experiments like the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) or the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) amongst others. We develop our own radio instrumentation and apply that knowledge to other scientific and technological challenges. A particular research effort in this group is in Big Data radio astronomy with the SKA telescope and other large radio instruments. We also operate the Arcminute Microkelving Imager (AMI) telescope, located at our radio observatory at Lords Bridge, Cambridge (MRAO).

microcavitiesExoplanets

Our research team focuses on the detection and characterisation of extrasolar planets. We are also involved in the development of new instrumentation. 

The team leads the leads the Leverhulme Center for Life in the Universe (LCLU).

Galaxy formation and evolution

We study physical processes related to the formation and evolution of galaxies and black holes that range from small to large scales, from star formation and stellar evolution to cosmological gas accretion and the large-scale cosmic web. Our projects aim at detecting galaxies formed in the early Universe, characterising the galaxy population during the Epoch of Reionization and understanding the regulation of star formation through cosmic time. We adopt a multifaceted approach between observations and theory. We are using the most powerful telescopes on Earth and in space in order to make new discoveries. In parallel, we lead the development and analysis of numerical and analytical models to interpret our observations and to draw inspiration for new observational projects. 

Optical and Infrared Instrumentation & Interferometry

Our team focuses on the design and construction of innovative astronomical instrumentation at optical and infrared wavelengths. We are world leaders in interferometric aperture synthesis imaging, and are leading the design and deployment of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer in the US. We also develop spectrographs for the next generation of Extremely Large Telescopes. Our work thus spans both high angular and high spectral resolution and includes system engineering and optical, mechanical and software design.

Theoretical cosmology, gravitational physics and the Cosmic Microwave Background

We work on topics in theoretical cosmology and astrophysics, as well as on advanced data analysis methods for cosmology. The active areas of research span inflationary cosmology to novel neural network methods, with a common theme of the confrontation of theoretical predictions with experiment, and the best way to carry this out. Topics addressed include Bayesian Evidence-based comparison of cosmological models and data sets, tests of predictions from modified gravity theories, gravitational wave template detection and analysis, and tests of inflation using data from the Planck Satellite. We also work actively on more theoretical topics involving the construction of modified gravity theories themselves, and the localisation of energy and spin in General Relativity.

 

Researchers and Research Groups associated with this theme

Dr Mark A.J. Ashdown

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Prof David Buscher

Optical and Infrared Instrumentation & Interferometry 

Dr Jeremy Coles

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Assoc. Prof Eloy De Lera Acedo

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Dr Fred Dulwich

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Dr Will Handley

Theoretical cosmology, gravitational physics and the CMB

Prof Chris Haniff

Optical and Infrared Instrumentation & Interferometry

Prof Mike Hobson

Theoretical cosmology, gravitational physics and the CMB

Dr Vid Irsic

Galaxy formation and evolution

Prof Roberto Maiolino

Galaxy formation and evolution

Dr Bojan Nikolic

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Prof Didier Queloz 

Exoplanets

Assistant Prof Paul Rimmer

Exoplanets

Dr Vladislav Stolyarov

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Assistant Prof Sandro Tacchella

Galaxy formation and evolution

Dr Samantha Thompson

Exoplanets

Dr Charles Walker

Radio astronomy, radio cosmology and exascale astronomy

Dr John Young

Optical and Infrared Instrumentation & Interferometry


Emeriti and retired associated with this theme

Emeritus Prof Paul Alexander

Emeritus Prof Anthony Lasenby

Emeritus Prof John Richer

Dr Paul Scott

Other researchers collaborating on this theme

Dr David Green