The structure and principles of the universe

How does the universe work?

We are at the forefront of understanding the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies and explore the underlying sub-atomic building blocks of our Universe from the Higgs Boson to gravitational waves. Our research drives new technologies in space imaging, robotics and semiconductors for aerospace, nuclear waste management and healthcare.

To understand what 'is', you need to understand what 'could be'. We are developing statistical methods to quantitate risk in complex systems and determining how space and numbers can be assembled, either continuously or algebraically, whilst mapping the effects of symmetries.

We have a total of £17 million in grant income in this area. Our researchers play a leading part in the largest multi-institution international collaborations and in consortia using the most modern telescope facilities.

Revolutionary HiPERCAM captures movies of space

Professor Vik Dhillon is the lead scientist behind HiPERCAM, which can take more than 1,000 images per second and will revolutionise scientists' understanding of stars and black holes. The camera is mounted on the world's largest optical telescope, the Gran Telescopio Canarias.

Full story


LIGO: Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein's prediction

Dr Ed Daw was part of the LIGO collaboration that observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime, known as gravitational waves, for the first time.

Full story

GOTO: Telescope for detecting optical signals from gravitational waves launched

GOTO telescope

Professor Vik Dhillon is part of an international research team which built the Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer on La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Full story


Axions and WIMPS: Particle physicists debate dark matter

To date there has been no conclusive proof of the existence of dark matter. In this podcast, Professor Dan Tovey and Dr Ed Daw debate two theories that may explain it – axions and weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs).


Overabundance of massive stars gives new insights into the universe

Monster stars

An overabundance of massive stars was discovered in the gigantic star-forming region 30 Doradus in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.

Full story


Researchers observe largest solar flare in more than a decade

Solar flare

The flare was one of three X-category flares – the largest type of flare – observed by scientists over a 48-hour period.

Read more


Scientists discover new insight into nature's own Death Star beams

Death Star

Researchers have moved a step closer to understanding ultra powerful jets of energy that shoot out from the vicinity of black holes.

Read more


Sheffield telescope facilities

There are two telescopes on the roof of the Hicks Building: a robotic 0.25m telescope and a computer-controlled 0.40m telescope, which our students use during their astrophysics courses. We also share a 0.5m telescope with the University of Durham at the William Herschel Observatory on La Palma.

Our astrophysics researchers have uploaded images they've captured using our telescopes to their Flickr site, plus snaps from our undergraduate field trips to La Palma.

Sheffield Telescopes on Flickr

Hicks Observatory

Telescope 1

Telescope 2

Main image credit: NASA, ESA, P Crowther (University of Sheffield)