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Observing the gas, dust and stars in Andromeda with ultra-high resolution

Project Description

For astronomers wanting to investigate the formation of stars, the Andromeda galaxy is the ideal target. It is the closest big galaxy to our own, so we can get the best possible physical resolution (in parsec) with all telescopes. It also has the advantage over our own galaxy, where we can get even better resolution, that we can see it from the outside, so there are no ambiguities about the location of the gas and dust. Andromeda has been observed with superb resolution in every waveband except one – the submillimetre waveband. The problem in the submillimetre waveband is the galaxy’s huge size (bigger than the full moon) and the fluctuating noise in the Earth’s atmosphere, which has made it impossible to obtained reliable submillimetre images. In Cardiff we have recently solved this problem, showing that it is possible to produce reliable images by combining high-resolution observations from the ground with lower resolution observations made from space with the Herschel Space Observatory and with Planck. We are now leading an international team (80 astronomers in six countries) that are carrying out the first full submm survey of Andromeda. Since we are leading the survey, we get first choice of what we do with the data. The student will use this state-of-the-art data to obtain a catalogue of the clouds of dust and gas in Andromeda. The student will measure the rate at which stars are forming in each cloud. The student will then investigate how the star-formation rates depend on the location of each cloud relative to the large-scale properties of the galaxy, such as the spiral arms and the ring. Using the results, the student should make some major discoveries about the physics of star formation and whether this depends primarily on the small-scale properties of the interstellar medium or also depends on the large-scale environment within the galaxy. Since our team is in six different countries, the student must be prepared to travel.

This project will be funded by the STFC.
Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2020.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. If you are applying for more than one project, please list the individual titles of the projects in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select ’I will be applying for a scholarship/grant’ and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the STFC.

Applicants will need to submit the following documents with their application:
- post high school certificates and transcripts to date
- academic CV
- personal statement
- two academic references. Your references can either be uploaded with your application, or emailed by the referee to or

Funding Notes

Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

You should have obtained, or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree in Physics , or a related subject, Alternatively, applicants with equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK will also be considered. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree.
Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS).

Related Subjects

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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