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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Fiona Harrison

COFUND Senior Research Fellow at Ustinov College (March - April 2014)

Professor Fiona Harrison is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Fellow of the American Physical Society. She is internationally recognised for her seminal publications in the field of focussing telescopes for hard X-ray astronomy and is the Principal Investigator of both the NuSTAR satellite (a $160 million NASA observatory launched in 2012) and of NASA High-Energy Focusing Telescope Balloon Payload.

During her Fellowship in Durham, Prof. Harrison will work with leading Durham academics using computational cosmology to optimise the outputs of the data from the NuSTAR satellite. This focuses on the X-ray background, which was the first cosmic background radiation to be identified (in 1962), ~2 years before the detection of the cosmic microwave background (the “relic” heat from the big bang). NuSTAR is the first observatory that has the potential to directly resolve the sources that produce the X-ray background and Durham University is one of only two institutes in the UK that has an involvement in NuSTAR (and is the only UK institute with a leading role). Nominated by Prof. David Alexander Institute of Computational Cosmology (ICC) and Prof. Carlos Frenk (ICC), the Fellowship will enable strong collaboration between Prof Harrison and the astronomers that work in the X-ray group at Durham, one of the largest X-ray groups in the UK.