Research Topics & Resources

Research at Armagh Observatory & Planetarium

Research at Armagh ranges from the study of objects within the Solar System to distant galaxies. Astronomers make use of ground based telescopes such as ESO's VLT, the Swedish Solar Telescope, radio telescopes like the Mopra millimetre-wave telescope, satellites such as Kepler and K2, and use high performance computing to simulate observations and compute models.

Solar research uses data from spacecraft and ground-based facilities to study fundamental questions such as how the Sun's outer atmosphere is heated, what drives the solar wind and the Sun's variable magnetic activity and how likely is a super-flare from the Sun which seriously disrupts life on Earth?

Solar System research encompasses the dynamical structure, evolution and origin of objects in the inner and outer solar system. Addressing these questions can give insight to the life of the Solar System and stars with exo-planets. Observations from Earth can also determine the composition of asteroids which is becoming a key science area, with a number of space missions actually landing on them, and from international mining companies.

Stellar and Galactic research includes investigations into the formation and evolution of massive stars, taking into account factors such as mass loss through stellar winds. Other research examines evolved stars through detailed modelling of their evolution and spectroscopic and photometric observations. Other research makes detailed observations of magnetic fields and studying compact binary systems through wide field photometric surveys and X-ray and other telescopes. In radio waves research is on-going to map giant molecular clouds and star-formation regions in our Galaxy.

Extragalactic research focuses on mapping the dynamics of stellar populations of distant galaxies to determine the mass of galaxy and its central black hole. Observations such as these can give clues as to possible sources for the dark matter which is needed to explain observations of galaxies in general.

Armagh is a full partner in international projects such as the new Solar Telescope DKIST which is being built in Maui in Hawaii; the low frequency radio array iLofar which astronomers are using to study flares from stars; the Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer survey telescope on La Palma GOTO whose prime goal is to detect the optical counterpart of gravitational wave events and CTA which will detect the highest energy gamma-rays and is being built in La Palma and Chile.

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