Space Science

X-ray and Observational Astronomy

Our X-ray and Observational Astronomy group is one of the world's leaders in high energy and observational astrophysics. The group has a broad multi-wavelength research programme, which aims to answer many of the most interesting questions in modern astrophysics. These include exploring the variety of extra-solar planets, understanding the birth and death of stars, explaining the origin of gamma-ray bursts, determining the properties of galaxies and active galaxies and using extra-galactic surveys to investigate the structure of the Universe.

The group, in conjunction with Space Research Centre, has a world leading capability in X-ray optics, in particular lightweight optics based on microchannel plate/pore technology. Space missions that the group has been involved in include ROSAT, XMM, Chandra and SWIFT.

For further information please contact:

Professor Mike Watson:

Swift Launch
Swift Launch. Courtesy of NASA.
or Professor Paul O’Brien:

Radio and Space Plasma Physics

The Radio and Space Plasma Physics group is at the forefront of research into the interaction of planetary environments with the solar wind including Mercury and the outer planet environments. To understand these complex interactions, information from a broad range of theoretical and experimental studies is required and the group is active in many national and international collaborations. Experimental and data analysis studies with spacecraft - such as Cluster, Cassini, Juno, Messenger and the Hubble Space Telescope -  and ground based facilities are carried out.

The group builds and operates ground-based radar facilities including seven SuperDARN radars, and the two UK CUTLASS radars in Iceland and Finland. Much of this work has application in space weather. Recently, work on Space Nuclear Power, space orbit and radiation analysis and Raman based instruments for exploring the planets has been incorporated within the group. Future work will include the use of Bepi-Colombo for studies of Mercury where the group provides the Principal Investigator for the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer, which was built by the Space Research Centre.

For further information please contact:

Professor Mark Lester: Stan Cowley:, Professor Steve Milan: or Dr Chris Thomas:

Space Research Centre

The Space Research Centre (SRC) is part of the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy and forms a focus for Space Instrumentation and Engineering activities within the University. It is housed in the Michael Atiyah building on the University campus.

The SRC's programme has three main areas of focus, which are:

  • developing novel sensors and optics for high energy astrophysics, planetary landers and orbiters and interdisciplinary research in the Life Sciences and Medicine on its own and in conjunction with other research groups;
  • providing engineering capability in Space;
    Michael Atiyah Building
    Michael Atiyah Building, home to the Space Research Centre on the University campus
  • planetary science including concepts for the next generation of instrumentation, tools and techniques and planetary materials and their analysis.

Space missions the SRC is, or has been, involved with include XMM, Chandra, SWIFT, Beagle 2, Meteosat Second Generation, James Webb Space Telescope and Bepi-Colombo. Utilising its expertise in high speed electronics and nano-second to pico-second time resolution light detectors, the SRC leads on the light detection systems for the UK contribution to the International Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) - a ground based, high energy gamma-ray telescope, which is currently in development.

For further information please contact:

Professor Mark Sims or Dr Paul Drumm, SRC Senior Project Manager

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A history of space at Leicester

A timeline of our achievements in space.

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