Dr Phil Evans

I'm a research associate at the University of Leicester. Currently I'm employed on a grant from the UK Space Agency to carry out post-launch support for the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory (https://www.swift.ac.uk). I develop tools and techniques to facilitate the exploitation of X-ray data from Swift for astrophysical research. My overarching philosophy in this regard is that researchers should be able to spend their time thinking about what their data mean, rather than having to spend it working out how to analyse said data! As a researcher, I pioneer the new field of "multi-messenger" astronomy.

Swift Development Scientist

photo of me

BSc (Hons), PhD (Keele)

Tel: 0116 252 5059

Email: pae9@leicester.ac.uk

Office: Room G49, Physics building

My main web page can be seen here


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Follow me on Twitter: @swift_phil

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I was an undergraduate student at Keele University from 1999-2002, where I earned a first class degree in astrophysics. I then took my PhD at Keele as well. This was done working under Coel Hellier, studying the X-ray emission from interacting binary star systems, and was my first introduction to X-ray astronomy. I completed my PhD in 2005, and worked as a researcher for a further year at Keele. In 2006 I moved to the University of Leicester, joining the post-launch support team for the Swift satellite, working particularly on the X-ray Telescope. In this role I has developed the much-lauded tools to automatically analyse the X-ray data from Swift, and produced the 1SXPS catalogue which characterised 150,000 X-ray emitting objects seen by Swift. I have been involved in multi-messenger astronomy since 2011, when Swift began to search for X-ray counterparts to possible neutrinos detected by the IceCube facility. I lead the effort to use Swift to find the counterparts to gravitational wave triggers, having develop techniques to enable and optimise this.

Research interests

My personal research interest and activity is in "time-domain" astronomy - things that vary, especially things that explode. For some years I've been pioneering the newly-emerging field of so-called "multi-messenger" astronomy. This is where we combine light (such as X-rays) with other, newly-available "messengers" like neutrinos or gravitational waves which allows us to study the physics of the cosmos in new ways never before possible. I've been working in this field since IceCube started detecting neutrinos and the days of initial LIGO (see for example, Evans et al., 2012 and 2015 in my publications list).

2017 was a very exciting year for this field, with the detections of "GW 170817" - the first time we directly detected gravitational waves and light from the same object. Then just a month later "IceCube 170922" - the first time since Supernova 1987A that we've detected light and neutrinos from the same object (other than the Sun!). I was heavily involved in both of these -- see my publications list for details.


I work primarily on Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) — enormous explosions in space, believed to be the death of massive stars. The Swift satellite has revolutionised our understanding of  GRBs but also it has raised many new questions. I am particularly interested in the X-ray afterglows, and what causes the wide range of types seen.


Science Communication

In my role as a Swift scientist I tweet about work (@swift_phil). I also give occasional talks to schools or astronomical societies, and have written guest posts for the "Geeked on Goddard" blog hosted at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. At the 2013 BBC Stargazing Live event hosted at the University of Leicester I gave 2 public talks entitled , "How to blow up a star."

Selected Publications

  • A Multimessenger Picture of the Flaring Blazar TXS 0506+056: Implications for High-energy Neutrino Emission and Cosmic-Ray Acceleration, Keivani A., et al, 2017, ApJ, 864, 84, DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aad59a
  • Swift and NuSTAR observations of GW170817: detection of a blue kilonova, Evans P.A., et al, 2017, Science, 258, 1565, DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9580
  • The emergence of a lanthanide-rich kilonova following the merger of two neutron stars, Tanvir N.R., et al, 2017, ApJL, 848, L28, DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa90b6
  • Swift follow-up of gravitational wave triggers: results from the first aLIGO run and optimisation for the future, Evans P.A., et al, 2016, MNRAS, 462, 1591, DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stw1746
  • Swift follow-up of the gravitational wave source GW150914, Evans P.A., et al, 2016, MNRAS, 460, L40 DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/slw065
  • Optimization of the Swift X-ray follow-up of Advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave triggers in 2015-16, Evans P.A., et al., 2016, MNRAS, 455, 1522, DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stv2213
  • 1SXPS: A Deep Swift X-Ray Telescope Point Source Catalog with Light Curves and Spectra, Evans P.A., et al, 2014, ApJS, 210, 8, DOI: 10.1088/0067-0049/210/1/8
  • Swift follow-up observations of candidate gravitational-wave transient events, Evans P.A., et al, 2012, ApJ, 203, 28, DOI: 10.1088/0067-0049/203/2/28
  • Methods and results of an automatic analysis of a complete sample of Swift-XRT observations of GRBs , Evans P.A., et al, 2009, MNRAS, 397, 1177, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14913.x


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