Richard Willingale

Professor of High Energy Astrophysicsrw

MA (Cambridge), MSc, PhD (Leicester)

Tel: 0116 252 3556


Office: Room S2, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Personal details

MA (Cambridge), MSc, PhD (Leicester)

I was awarded my PhD by the University of Leicester in 1979. I started my career as a Research Associate in the X-ray Astronomy Research Group, University of Leicester, working on analysis of data from the Einstein Observatory and as the Telescope Scientist for the Rosat Wide Field Camera XUV instrument. I

I was appointed as Lecturer in Physics at Leicester in 1983 and in 1984 I joined the instrument team for the MEDA instrument on Exosat, writing software for the post-launch calibration and analysis of data and became a founding member of the Telescope Working Group for ESA's XMM Observatory in 1986. With the launch of Rosat in 1990 I worked on post-launch calibration and data analysis for the XUV Wide Field Camera instrument and embarked on a major study of the WFC background. I continued research on the development of the XMM telescope through to launch in 1999, working on all aspects of the optical design including stray light/stray X-ray analysis, the design of the soft electron diverter and the calibration of the EPIC MOS detectors. I was appointed the chairman of the ESA XEUS Optics Working Group in 1997 and have continued leading work on the next great X-ray observatory as chairman of the ESA IXO Telescope Working Group, 2008 and most recently as chairman of the ESA Athena Telescope Working group, 2011. I was a member of the Swift X-ray Telescope development team working on the X-ray optics and CCD detectors from 1998 through to launch in 2004. Since then, my astrophysics research has centred on Gamma Ray Bursts captured by the Swift satellite. I was appointed as Senior Lecturer, Leicester, 2003 and Professor of High Energy Astrophysics in 2010. Most recently I was awarded research funding for the development of X-ray Interferometry for ultra high angular resolution astronomy, 2004, and so-called Smart X-ray Optics, 2006, for development of actively adjustable telescope optics for astrophysical and laboratory applications.


Personal pages


  • PA1120: Light and Matter - year 1
  • PA1900: Introduction to R programming - year 1
  • PA2930: Introduction to C Programming under R - 2nd year - opt294
  • PA2930: C and R Programming Assignment - 2nd year - opt294
  • PA2600: Fractals and Chaos - 2nd year - opt2606
  • PA4480: Lasers and Quantum Optics - 4th year - opt4313
  • PA4600: Scientific Inference - 4th year - opt4312
  • Lecture Notes
  • Computing Workshops


Selected publications

R. Willingale, R. L. C. Starling, A. P. Beardmore, N. R. Tanvir, and P. T. O’Brien. Calibration of X-ray absorption in our Galaxy. MNRAS , 431:394–404, May 2013.

R. Willingale, F. Genet, J. Granot, and P. T. O’Brien. The spectral-temporal properties of the prompt pulses and rapid decay phase of gamma-ray bursts. MNRAS , 403:1296–1316, April 2010.

R. Willingale, P. T. O’Brien, J. P. Osborne, O. Godet, K. L. Page, M. R. Goad, D. N. Burrows, B. Zhang, E. Rol, N. Gehrels, and G. Chincarini. Testing the Standard Fireball Model of Gamma-Ray Bursts Using Late X-Ray Afterglows Measured by Swift. ApJ , 662:1093–1110, June 2007.

R. Willingale, G. I. Butcher, M. Ackermann, R. Guenther, and M. Collon. A slatted mirror for an x-ray interferometer manufactured in silicon. In Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series , volume 8861 of Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series , September 2013.

R. Willingale, G. Pareschi, F. Christensen, and J.-W. den Herder. The Hot and Energetic Universe: The Optical Design of the Athena+ Mirror. ArXiv e-prints , July 2013.

R. Willingale and F. H. P. Spaan. Improving the angular resolution of the conical Wolter-I silicon pore optics (SPO) mirror design for the International X-ray Observatory (IXO). In Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series , volume 7732 of Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series , July 2010.

Full publication list from ADS


X-ray optics and X-ray instrumentation for astrophysics and space science applications

Data analysis techniques and data analysis software development

X-ray astronomy - Super Nova Remnants, Gamma Ray Bursts,  InterStellar/InterGalactic Medium

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