Dr Steven Parsons

Department of Physics and Astronomy

STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow

Dr Steven Parsons
+44 114 22 23558

Full contact details

Dr Steven Parsons
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Hicks Building
Hounsfield Road
S3 7RH

I am an Ernest Rutherford Fellow in the astronomy group at the University of Sheffield. I earned my MPhys in Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Kent in 2008, followed by a PhD at the University of Warwick under the supervision of Professor Tom Marsh.

After receiving my PhD in 2012 I moved to the Universidad de Valparaiso in Chile as an ESO/Comite Mixto Post Doctoral research associate. One year into this postion I was awarded a 3 year FONDECYT Post Doctoral fellowship at Valparaiso, which I finished in 2016.

I moved to Sheffield in July 2016 as part of a 1 year Post Doc with Prof. Vik Dhillon working on the HiPERCAM project, before starting a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in 2017. Two years into my Leverhulme Fellowship I was awarded a STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellowship.

Research interests

My research involves the study of white dwarfs, the incredibly dense burnt out embers of former stars. White dwarfs have masses similar to the Sun, but are only the size of the Earth.

Many are found in binary systems with other stars or white dwarfs, a few of which are aligned with the Earth such that one star passes in front of the other, causing regular eclipses.

I use a range of telescopes from around the world to search for and study these eclipsing binaries in order to better understand the structure and composition of white dwarfs as well as the evolution and fate of these binaries.

There is a theoretical upper limit to the mass of a white dwarf, known as the Chandrasekhar mass. If a white dwarf gains mass (e.g. from a binary companion) and reaches this limit it will blow up in an explosion known as a Type Ia supernova, visible from across the Universe.

These supernovae are extremely useful to cosmologists since their distances can be reliably measured, leading to the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe and the existence of dark energy.

However, how the white dwarf gains the mass, and the nature of its binary companion are not well known.

I search for the progenitors of type Ia supernovae in our own Galaxy to better understand how they are created and whether or not the existence of multiple formation channels could ultimately limit their use as distance indicators.


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Journal articles

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Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

  • Bezawada N, Gao X, Henry D, Black M, Miller C, Lunney D, Dhillon V, Littlefair S, Kerry P, Gamble T , Dixon S et al (2018) Configuration of readout electronics and data acquisition for the HiPERCAM instrument. Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 10709, 10 June 2018 - 15 June 2018. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dhillon V, Dixon S, Gamble T, Kerry P, Littlefair S, Parsons S, Marsh T, Bezawada N, Black M, Gao X , Henry D et al (2018) First light with HiPERCAM on the GTC. Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 10702, 10 June 2018 - 15 June 2018. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Wilson DJ, Gaensicke BT, Koester D, Raddi R, Breedt E, Southworth J & Parsons SG (2015) Variable Emission from a Gaseous Disc around a Metal-Polluted White Dwarf. 19TH EUROPEAN WORKSHOP ON WHITE DWARFS, Vol. 493 (pp 279-284) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bours MCP, Marsh TR, Parsons SG, Copperwheat CM, Dhillon VS, Littlefair SP, Gaensicke BT, Gianninas A & Tremblay P-E (2015) A Detailed Study of CSS 41177: an Eclipsing Double White Dwarf. 19TH EUROPEAN WORKSHOP ON WHITE DWARFS, Vol. 493 (pp 313-318) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bours MCP, Marsh TR & Parsons SG (2013) Planets Around White Dwarf Binaries. 18TH EUROPEAN WHITE DWARF WORKSHOP, Vol. 469 (pp 451-+) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hessman FV, Beuermann K, Dreizler S, Marsh TR, Parsons SG, Copperwheat CM, Winget DE, Miller GF, Hermes JJ, Schreiber MR , Kley W et al (2011) The Planets around the post-Common Envelope Binary NN Serpentis. PLANETARY SYSTEMS BEYOND THE MAIN SEQUENCE: Proceedings of the International Conference RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dreizler S, Beuermann K, Hessman FV, Marsh TR, Parsons SG, Dhillon VS, Schreiber MR, Kley W, Miller GF, Werner K & Rauch T (2010) Evidence for planets orbiting the post-common envelope binary NN Serpentis. 17TH EUROPEAN WHITE DWARF WORKSHOP RIS download Bibtex download