We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.


View Research Directory

Astronomy and Astrophysics

A research group of the Department of Physics.


Astronomy and Astrophysics

Section web pages:  

Section Head: Professor Ian Smail

The Astronomy research in Durham is an internationally leading activity. We undertake research in the following fields:

  • Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology
    Observational studies of the formation and evolution of galaxies, black holes and active galactic nuclei, the evolution of larger-scale structures in the universe and tests of cosmological theories. The observational programme makes extensive use of a wide range of facilities including the largest optical, infra-red and submillimetre telescopes, radio arrays and space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory and the Chandra and XMM- Newton X-ray satellites. We have close links to the activities in both the Institute for Computational Cosmology and the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation.
  • Institute for Computational Cosmology
    The theoretical programme based within the Institute is focussed on numerical studies of galaxy formation, large- structure and the nature of the cosmic dark matter. To support this programme the Institute operates a wide-range of high-performance supercomputer facilities.
  • Gamma Ray Astronomy
    Primary cosmic gamma rays (>300 GeV) are studied using the atmospheric Cerenkov radiation technique. The group is actively participating in the development of the next generation of ground-based gamma ray observatories.

Durham also hosts active researchers working in a further three areas:

  • High Energy Astrophysics
    Studies are made of the origin of high energy cosmic rays and their propagation through the Galaxy and in intergalactic space. The group has important collaborations with eastern European institutes.
  • Applied Historical Astronomy
    Ancient records from China, Japan, Korea, Babylon, and Arabia, as well as European medieval sources, are studied. They provide long baseline data for phenomena such as the Earth's rotation, the Solar cycle, comets, novae and supernovae.
  • Molecular Astrophysics
    Research in Molecular Astrophysics focuses on the theoretical calculations of molecular transistions for a wide variety of molecules commonly seen in the interstellar medium. These transistion strengths are used to interpret observations of interstellar clouds and shocks in interstellar gas.



Director of the ICC

Academic Staff

Research Staff


Research Student