7 things you didn’t know about astrophysics in Liverpool

Image of space
Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Following the news that Liverpool John Moores University’s Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) has been awarded 1.7 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC), we thought it was the perfect time to tell you all about the ARI and the cosmic things that they do.

The ARI offers a joint degree programme in both BSc and MPhys with the University of Liverpool – bringing together the expertise and facilities of two institutions that are highly regarded nationally and internationally – and student satisfaction rates are 100% at Masters level and 98% at Undergraduate level. Impressive, hey?

It doesn’t stop there. The ARI is also rated first for research among the University Alliance Universities and in the recent Research Excellence Framework (the system that assesses the quality of research in UK higher education institutions), it was confirmed that more than 85% of the ARI’s research outputs are world-leading or internationally excellent.

There are the credentials, but how is our work changing how we see the world?

Seven things you didn’t know about astrophysics in Liverpool

1. The Liverpool Telescope

The Liverpool Telescope is one of the largest and most advanced fully robotic telescopes in the world. Owned and operated by LJMU’s ARI, it is mainly used for professional astronomical research, although part of its observational time is devoted to educational projects in Spain, the Educational Project with Robotic Telescopes (PETeR) of the IAC, and in the UK, the National Schools’ Observatory (NSO) of the LJMU.

2. The Big Data Breakthrough – LJMU and University of Liverpool will be home to the new £1m Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in data intensive science. The centre will lead the next generation of Big Data breakthroughs. 

3. National Schools’ Observatory – With 2,500 schools and 15,000 pupils across the UK and Ireland making 100,000 astronomical observations per year, our National Schools’ Observatory has been a big success. Using the online tool, children can explore the heavens from their own classroom by remotely accessing The Liverpool Telescope.

4. Gravitational Wave Astronomy - The ARI is involved in the new era of gravitational wave astronomy, working with the European Southern Observatory to observe first light from gravitational wave source. For the first time ever, astronomers have observed both gravitational waves and light (electromagnetic radiation) from the same event thanks to a global collaborative effort involving ARI scientists from LJMU.

5. European Week of Astronomy and Space Science - The European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) 2018 will be taking place in Liverpool for the first time next April (3-6) at the ECHO Arena & Convention Centre. Held jointly with the ARI, the European Astronomical Society, and the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) of the Royal Astronomical Society, the event is expected to welcome over 1000 astrophysicists, planetary scientists and solar physicists from all over Europe and beyond. With more than 25 years of tradition, the EWASS has imposed itself as the largest conference for European astronomy. 

6. The New Robotic Telescope - The ARI provide world-leading research using data gathered from observing facilities across the globe and predictions from supercomputer simulations. As well as The Liverpool Telescope, the institute is currently in the process of designing the New Robotic Telescope - a facility which will take The Liverpool Telescope’s crown as the world’s largest robotic telescope dedicated to transient science. The New Robotic Telescope will be a powerful tool in the search for Earth-like planets, gravitational wave sources and explosive objects over the coming decades. Professor Chris Collins, Head of the ARI, said: “This is a major opportunity and investigating the exotic physics which govern many distant ultra-energetic sources using data from a large and fast reacting new 4m robotic telescope will keep us busy for many years to come.”

7. Research Project of the Year 2017 - New technology using Artificial Intelligence alongside The Liverpool Telescope has been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award for Research Project of the Year 2017. The scientists behind the largest robotic telescope in the world (for now!) designed and built a system that observes and classifies new stars with minimal human intervention: SPRAT (Spectrograph for the Rapid Analysis of Transients). SPRAT combines science, technology and outreach in a combination that is literally ‘star-shattering’ and, with the telescope, provides super-fast responses to cosmic phenomena.

Find out more about the Astrophysics Research Institute


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