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Astrophysics Research

Astrophysics research within the Centre spans the entire electromagnetic spectrum covering computational, theoretical and observational astronomy. Within the Centre, there are four main research themes:

Galaxy formation and evolution

The study of the galaxy formation and evolution is concerned with the origin of the first galaxies, the differences between galaxy formation today and in the past, how galaxies change over time and the effects their local environment has on their evolution, and the processes that created the vast array of galaxy morphologies we see in the local Universe today.

Key areas of research focus include: Galaxy formation theory: building a detailed understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies through computationally-based semi-analytical modelling and comparison with observations. Galaxies at High Redshift: determining observationally the mass assembly and star formation history of galaxies in the early universe. The Inter-Galactic Medium and observational studies of the properties of the diffuse gas between galaxies and its role in galaxy formation and evolution. Galaxy evolution and globular clusters: using 'ancient fossil' globular cluster populations of galaxies to constrain their early formation. Black holes and galaxy structure, studying the relationship between galaxy properties and the presence and nature of central super-massive black holes. Neutral hydrogen in galaxies: multi-wavelength studies of the distribution of neutral hydrogen gas (that fuels star formation) in galaxies and its role in shaping their evolution and present-day properties.

Cosmology

Cosmology is the study the origin, evolution, current state and eventual fate of universe. Our research into cosmology includes studies of the large-scale structures and dynamics of the Universe, as well as the laws and constants that govern its past, current and future.

Key areas of research focus include: Quasar absorption lines & high redshift galaxies, using luminous quasars to probe the physical conditions of intergalactic gas clouds and the outer regions of galaxies and to search for variations in the fundamental constants over cosmic time. Dark Matter: using the peculiar motions of galaxies in the local universe to map the underlying dark matter content. Large-scale structure: exploiting detailed quantitative measurements of the large-scale structure of galaxies to determine cosmological parameters and test alternative gravity models. Galaxy evolution and cosmology: observationally tracking the detailed evolution of galaxies as a function of cosmic time and environment. Big Bang Cosmology: measuring redshifts for hundreds of thousands of galaxies to determine the clustering of matter (or "baryonic wiggles") that is a relic of the Big Bang and provides a measurement of the Dark Energy content of the Universe.

Stars and Planets

Stars are one of the basic building blocks of galaxies, while planets - including our own Earth - form naturally around stars. The formation and evolution of stars affect the chemical and energy budget of their host galaxies, and stellar remnants can be used to understand extreme states of matter and test theories of gravity. With the rapid advances in our discovery of exoplanets, it is important that the understand planet formation if we are to make sense of the wide variety of planets being detected.

Key areas of research focus include: planet formation, theoretical and observational studies of planetary formation processes. Stellar dynamics and nuclear cluster evolution, understanding the development and evolution of star clusters and how stars evolve in such dense environments via computer modelling and observations. Follow this link for more information about stars & planets...

Our pulsar group is finding fast rotating neutron stars and using their pulsed emission to detect the gravitational wave background and understand neutron star physics and formation. We are actively involved in studies of interstellar scintillation, single-pulse polarimetry, and the development of baseband recording systems and a baseband software correlator. Follow this link for more information about pulsar...

Scientific Computing & Visualisation

Modern astronomy is a petascale enterprise. High performance computing applications are enabling complex simulations with many billions of particles, while the forthcoming generation of telescopes will collect data at rates in excess of terabytes per day. The immensity of the data demands new approaches in order to enable astronomers to cope with this large data paradigm shift.

Key areas of research focus include: the development of new tools for interactive astrophysical visualisation and data analysis, the use of graphics processing units (GPUs) to accelerate computation, and novel technologies including the Leap Motion, Oculus Rift and 3D-PDF for exploration and presentation of multi-dimensional data. Specific applications by our group include accelerating gravitational microlensing computations and solutions for real-time visualisation and analysis of terabyte scale datacubes from radio telescopes. Follow this link for more information about scientific computing & visualisation...

The Transient Universe

The night sky may appear largely unchanging, however there are a large number of highly energetic explosions and other exotic transient events which rapidly change in brightness on time scales of seconds to years. With the advent of wide-area CCDs, sophisticated electronics, supercomputers, and data science techniques, researchers are exploring this regime on ever faster time scales and out to ever further distances. Swinburne researchers are on the cutting edge of exploring the transient Universe by leading the world in the millisecond detections of fast radio bursts with the Parkes and Molonglo telescopes, in the detection of high redshift supernovae using the Keck telescope, out to record-breaking distances that correspond to a time shortly after the Big Bang, and in the development of instrumentation for an infrared survey of the sky from an observatory in the Antarctic.

Key areas of research include: Type Ia supernovae and their host galaxies to better understand the mysterious dark energy component of the Universe; High redshift (z > 2) supernovae surveys to explore the star formation history, chemical evolution, and reionisation of the Universe; Superluminous supernovae searches at z ~ 0 - 20 to help understand the exotic mechanisms that power these highly energetic events, such as magnetar spin-down or the long-theorised pair-instability process; Radio transient searches for pulsars, fast radio burst, and orbiting pulsars to study high-energy physics, test gravitational theory, and explore the physical state of the interstellar and intergalactic medium; and Fast transient surveys designed to detect Galactic and extragalactic events that occur on timescales much faster than has been previously explored in the optical and other wavelengths. Fast transients include supernova UV shock breakouts, gamma ray bursts, kilonovae, and a variety of other events that result from very different physical processes. The fast transient research is coordinated with simultaneous radio observations to search for counterparts to fast radio bursts in the optical, UV, x-ray, and infrared.

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