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Credit European Southern Observatory PHAS+Survey/N. Wright

Image shows Westerlund I, an observed example of a Young Massive Cluster (YMC). Produced by the European Southern Observatory (PHAS+Survey/N. Wright). 

Funding boosts Exeter’s research into the building blocks of galaxies

An Astrophysics expert from the University of Exeter has been awarded substantial funding to help solve one the most fundamental riddles of modern astronomy.

Dr Clare Dobbs has received a €2 million grant to conduct pioneering new research into the formation and evolution of star clusters.

The multi-million pound funding was awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) under its Consolidator Grants scheme. Dr Dobbs’ research is one of 55 grants awarded to UK institutions in the most recent announcement.

One of the pivotal areas which Dr Dobbs’ research will centre around the formation of young massive star clusters – extremely dense collections of young stars that form the fundamental building blocks of galaxies.

At present, astronomers have little understanding of how these clusters are formed, as there is no explanation as to how so many stars develop in such a comparatively small region of space, in such a condensed timescale.

Using the most advanced numerical simulations on supercomputers, Dr Dobbs will study both the formation and evolution of star clusters  for the duration of the five-year project.

The Consolidator Grant is the second ERC grant bestowed on Dr Dobbs, and the 10th award to Exeter’s Astrophysics department.

Dr Dobbs, a Senior Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Exeter said:  “'This research is fundamental to understand the difference between the formation of stellar clusters versus less dense groups of stars called OB associations.

“It is also ground-breaking in attempting to follow the evolution from the earliest stages of star formation in galaxies, right through to clusters which are millions or even billions of years old.”

The ERC will award a total of 291 consolidator grants as part of its EU Horizon 2020 research programme, worth a total of €573 million.

The research initiatives chosen cover a wide range of topics in physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, as well as social sciences and humanities.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 818940).

Date: 25 January 2019

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