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Galaxies and Observational Cosmology

The Andromeda Galaxy showing dusty spiral arms

The Andromeda Galaxy as seen by Herschel and the XMM X-ray telescope

Galaxies are large assemblies of stars, ranging in size from tiny dwarf galaxies, containing only a few thousand stars, to the giant ellipticals found at the centres of clusters, which contain a thousand billion stars. Our galaxy, which we see from within as the Milky Way, is a large spiral galaxy, one of the two largest galaxies in the Local Group, a small group of approximately 50 nearby galaxies. When you look out into space with the world's biggest telescopes you can see a Universe full of other galaxies all at various stages of their lives. The goal of our research group is to understand the properties of these galaxies, to discover how they were formed in the first place, and how they have changed over history.

To help us achieve our objectives we lead and participate in major international research projects. Currently a large part of our research is exploiting the observations that are being made by the Herschel Space Observatory. Herschel observes the at far-infrared and sub-mm wavelengths which are particularly suited to the detection of cold material (-240°C) in the Universe. We are combining these data with those at other wavelengths to study a wide variety of physical processes related to galaxies.

Prof Steve Eales is principal investigator of both the H-ATLAS and HRS projects. H-ATLAS is the largest Herschel Open Time Key project and is designed to provide an extra-galactic survey of large areas of sky. The HRS is an in depth survey of about 300 nearby galaxies.

Jonathan Davies is principal investigator of the HeViCS and HeFoCS projects. HeViCS is a large Open Time Key project to survey the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster and HeFoCS is an Open time project to study another nearby cluster Fornax.

Prof Walter Gear is principal investigator of a guaranteed time project HELGA to study our nearest neighbour spiral galaxy Andromeda (M31) (see image above).

The whole research group is primarily involved in these large Herschel observing programmes along with the collection of ancillary data at other wavelengths (for example AGES and the modelling and interpretation of the observations.

As well as extra-galactic studies we are also interested in the origin of the cold dust that gives rise to the far-infrared emission. We participate in MESS which is a Herschel survey to look at dust production in evolved stars in our the Milky Way. We are also actively pursuing new projects linked to ALMA and the SKA.