Survey Astronomy

Surveys for astronomical objects over large areas of the sky are the foundation on which much research in observational astrophysics is based. They make possible statistical studies of large numbers of objects and allow interesting or rare examples of phenomena to be found, which can then be studied in greater detail. Surveys have relevance in a very broad range of astronomical fields, including the Solar System, stars, the interstellar medium, the structure of our own Galaxy, galaxies in general, and cosmology.

The Survey Astronomy Group has a number of active research programmes using wide-field techniques at optical and infrared wavelengths. These involve imaging surveys: two-dimensional pictures are made of large areas of the sky, usually at more than one wavelength. Our work also includes spectroscopic surveys in which spectra are recorded of large numbers of individual objects, such as stars and galaxies, spread over a broad area.

Highlights

VISTA is a 4-metre telescope with a 1.65o diameter field-of-view 64 Mpixel near-IR camera, completed at ESO in Chile in 2009 as the world-leading near-IR survey telescope for many years. Emerson led the 18 UK University Consortium VISTA bid which received £24.8M JIF funding, obtained a further £12M from PPARC, and headed development since approval (overseeing £33.34M expenditure from his VISTA construction grants since 2001). Sutherland (VISTA Project Scientist) led definition of science requirements and their translation into VISTA hardware specifications and was crucial to its success. Both are redeeming their vast time investments since 2001 by producing and exploiting VISTA public surveys in international teams. Sutherland leads VISTA’s VIKING survey (30 co-Is), and is a member of the VLT Survey Telescope KIDS, and 3 other VISTA, survey teams. Emerson is in all 6 VISTA and the 2 other VST survey teams. ESO’s VISTA public surveys have 75% of time, opening up (inter alia): study of z>6.5 universe (>1000 galaxies), photometric redshifts for weak-lensing and baryon-oscillation studies, tracing galaxy and cluster structure/evolution out to z=4, unravelling 3-D structure and evolutionary history of the Galactic Bulge and Magellanic Clouds, and providing a southern sky survey 4 magnitudes fainter than 2MASS.

In preparation for VISTA data handling Emerson formed and led the distributed (Cambridge and Edinburgh) VISTA Data Flow System (VDFS) for producing calibrated VISTA and WFCAM (as test-bed) images/catalogues in an SQL-queryable science archive, which produced important UKIDSS data releases, and the VISTA pipeline for ESO.

Sutherland has made key contributions to interpreting MACHO survey data; in the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, he led development of the redshift measurement code and made significant contributions to analysis of cosmological data.

PhD Projects

PhD Projects in Survey Astronomy Surveys are the foundation on which much research in observational astrophysics is based. They make possible both statistical studies of large numbers of objects for various astrophysical studies, and finding samples of (rare) objects / phenomena whose properties can then be studied in greater detail. Surveys have relevance in a very broad range of astronomical fields, including the Solar System, stars, the interstellar medium, the structure of our Galaxy, structure and evolution of galaxies in general, large scale structure of the universe, distances through redshift determination, and cosmology including dark matter and dark energy. The group has a number of active research programmes using multi-wavelength wide-field imaging surveys of large areas at infrared (e.g. VISTA) and optical wavelengths. VISTA, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, is being constructed in Chile via a £36-million grant held by Queen Mary which leads the VISTA Consortium.There is a strong involvement in VISTA and related surveys (the group includes the Principal Investigator and Project Scientist for the QMUL-led £36-m VISTA infrared survey telescope). Infrared Surveys with VISTA will begin in late 2007. VISTA's six public surveys (all of which QM is involved in) range from very deep over a small area of sky, to shallow over the whole southern hemisphere, and offer a vast resource for studying stars, the Galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds, galaxies and cosmology. Students starting in 2012 will be well placed to exploit data from these surveys during their studentships.

Surveys are the foundation on which much research in observational astrophysics is based. They make possible both statistical studies of large numbers of objects for various astrophysical studies, and finding samples of (rare) objects / phenomena whose properties can then be studied in greater detail. Surveys have relevance in a very broad range of astronomical fields, including the Solar System, stars, the interstellar medium, the structure of our Galaxy, structure and evolution of galaxies in general, large scale structure of the universe, distances through redshift determination, and cosmology including dark matter and dark energy.

The group has a number of active research programmes using multi-wavelength wide-field imaging surveys of large areas at infrared (e.g. VISTA) and optical wavelengths. VISTA, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, was constructed in Chile via a £36-million grant held by Queen Mary which led the VISTA Consortium.There is a strong involvement in VISTA and related surveys (the group includes the Principal Investigator and Project Scientist for the QMUL-led £36-m VISTA infrared survey telescope). Infrared Surveys with VISTA began in late 2097. VISTA's six public surveys (all of which QM is involved in) range from very deep over a small area of sky, to shallow over the whole southern hemisphere, and offer a vast resource for studying stars, the Galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds, galaxies and cosmology. Students  will be well placed to exploit data from these surveys during their studentships.

Related QMUL research groups: Cosmology

QMUL hosted sites: VISTA