Here are some of the possible projects that you can undertake.
Please discuss with the individual professors for more detailed information and additional project possibilities.
- Chaos in astrophysical systems
We have a new measure for quantifying chaos in dynamical systems. As an example, the orbits of the planets and asteroids are chaotic and it would be fascinating to map the level of chaos throughout the solar system. This is particularly interesting in light of tube orbits and interplanetary spacecraft orbit design.
- The origin of the Earth-Moon system and the implications for the development of life
It is thought that the moon formed from an early giant collision between two large proto-planets. The moon is unique in its size and provides a stabilising torque that prevents the spin axis of the earth from continuous chaotic motions and thus stabilises the earth’s climate. This project is to determine the frequency of earth-moon systems using the statistics of proto-planet collisions from our large ensemble of solar system formation simulations.
- Galaxy formation
This is one of the grand challenge questions for cosmology - can we understand the formation of galaxies like the Milky Way with its associated satellite system within the context of the hierarchical cosmological model? There are many aspects to galaxy formation that require further study but this is a problem we hope to solve within the next decade! Some questions of relevance for MSc projects include the fundamental question of how galaxies acquire there baryons, importance of radiation at suppressing star formation in the first proto-galactic systems, to understand the processes that lead to the formation of molecular clouds and the role of accretion and feedback at regulating the star formation process.
- The disruption of the Magellanic Clouds by the Milky Way
Our closest neighbour, the Magellanic Clouds, is a spectacular example of a galaxy undergoing morphological evolution as a consequence of its interaction with a larger galaxy - the Milky Way. The aim is to carry out 3-dimensional gravitational and hydrodynamic simulations of this well studied interacting system in order to determine its past and future evolution.
- Morphological evolution of galaxies
Galaxies are observed to have a vast range of properties, including variations in colour, star-formation histories and morphology. The question that we will attempt to address is the importance of environment in determining the observational properties of galaxies. What is the role of interactions and mergers in groups and clusters? How does the diffuse intra-cluster medium affect the star-formation properties of spiral galaxies? Can we understand elliptical galaxies as the outcome of mergers between spiral galaxies?
- Direct detection of dark matter
Many groups, including experimental physics institute, are carrying out laboratory experiments that attempt to directly detect dark matter through its small expected cross section for interacting with baryons. These experiments rely on understanding the flow of dark matter particles through the laboratory on earth. This project is to calculate the expected energy distribution of neutralinos as the earth orbits through the smooth dark matter background. The predictions are further complicated by the presence of significant structure in the phase space distribution of particles which may lie in streams and clumps.
- Analytic models for dark matter haloes
The structure of dark matter haloes that form within the standard cosmological model can be determined with computer simulations. We find that haloes are universal and nearly self similar, containing vast numbers of dark matter substructures, yet analytic models for understanding the properties of such systems are poorly developed. This project is to use analytic models for violent relaxation and virialisation to try to understand the structure of the dark matter haloes that surround galaxies and galaxy clusters.
- Parallel visualisation techniques
We carry out some of the world’s largest computer calculations on massively parallel systems such as our own zBox supercomputer or the Mare-Nostrum in Barcelona. One of the final difficulties in simulation analysis is the visualisation of extremely large data sets with up to ten billion particles. This project is to help develop a parallel visualisation tool for the real time analysis and display of such large point-data sets.
- Development of high performance astrophysical codes
Interesting in computer programming? We maintain and develop a wide range of codes that allow us to simulate complex systems that require a vast dynamic range: precision calculations of the long term evolution of collisional systems, such as the solar system or star clusters, collisionless techniques for dark matter haloes and large scale structure, fluid dynamics, radiative and MHD techniques for following the stars and gas necessary to study galaxy formation. A wide range of projects are available in all of these areas.