Keele Astrophysics Group

Welcome to the Keele Astrophysics Group which is part of the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences and the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

The Keele Astrophysics group currently consists of 11 academic staff members, with research interests including star formation and stellar clusters, late stellar evolution, massive stars and their impact on the early universe, the interstellar medium, binary stars, interacting binary stars, and the detection of extra-solar planets.

Research experience week in the Astrophysics Group at Keele

Following successful events in 2016 and 2017, the Keele Astrophysics Group will again be hosting a research experience week for aspiring (astro)physicists in the week commencing July 9th 2018. The week will give students in year 10, 11 or 12 at local schools and colleges the opportunity to work in teams on real, world-class astronomical data and contribute to a research programme conducted by Prof Rob Jeffries and Dr Pierre Maxted into Kepler observations of eclipsing binary stars. Interested students should apply to Prof Jeffries at by 23rd February and will need a reference from their school/college. Further information can be found at

Research Associate in the Dynamics and Ages of Young Stellar Clusters

Post ref:KU00000702

Fixed Term for 3 years

Starting salary: Grade 7 £32,548 - £39,992

Keele University wishes to appoint a Research Associate starting from April 2018 (no later than 1 October), to conduct research into the dynamics and ages of young stellar clusters.

The appointee will work with Prof Rob Jeffries and colleagues within the Astrophysics group at Keele University, as part of an STFC-funded project to use new data from the Gaia-ESO spectroscopic survey at the Very Large Telescope and from ESA's Gaia astrometry satellite, to calibrate the ages of young stellar clusters and establish their membership, chemical abundances and dynamical properties. The aim is to constrain and improve models for the formation and evolution of young stars, their planets and circumstellar matter, and the dynamical evolution of their birth environments.

The PDRA will lead the analysis and combination of data for young clusters from the Gaia-ESO and Gaia surveys. The work will involve establishing calibrated and consistent age scales, determining cluster membership and developing novel methods to investigate their dynamical status. The PDRA will also contribute to the other project components and be encouraged to develop their own research program and leadership skills.

Applicants should have or expect to obtain a PhD in astrophysics or related area and should have a demonstrated aptitude for research and specifically in the areas of young stars or stellar clusters. A strong publication record and experience working with Gaia or Gaia-ESO data would be highly desirable.

To apply, visit

Keele University is committed to equality and diversity across our workforce. We strive to ensure that our workforce is representative of broader society, and therefore, we would actively welcome applications from women for this role.

Closing date 25th February 2018.

Further information from Prof Rob Jeffries

Keele Astronomers win massive amounts of facility time

Student Viktor Zivkov, with Joana Oliveira, won 54 hours on the 4m VISTA telescope in Chile to study stars forming in the Magellanic Clouds.

Coel Hellier, with David Anderson and student Lorna Temple, won 8 nights on the 3.6m ESO telescope in Chile to discover planets around hot stars.

John Southworth, with Pierre Maxted and Barry Smalley, won 7 nights on the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope in Spain, 2 nights on the 3.6m New Technology Telescope in Chile, and 7 nights on the 1.9m telescope in South Africa to study exoplanets and their hosts; with Maxted and student Sam Gill he won 17 hours on the 2m Liverpool Telescope in Spain to study eclipsing binary stars.

Pierre Maxted, with Rob Jeffries, won 13 nights on the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) in Spain to study tidal interactions between binary solar-type stars.

Student Teo Mocnik, with Southworth and Hellier, won access to data from the Kepler spacecraft to study exoplanet systems.

Jacco van Loon won 7 hours on the 8.2m Very Large Telescope in Chile against an overbidding factor of 12, to study the remnant of a supernova explosion; with student James Bamber he won 4 nights on the INT to find dying stars in nearby galaxies; and with student Ameerah Al-Sadooni he won 28 hours time on the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) to study galaxies seen on their sides.

Sam Gill, with Smalley, Maxted and student Jessica Kirkby-Kent won 5 hours on SALT to characterise binary stars. Both SALT allocations are at no cost to Keele.

European project to investigate the origins of the universe takes flight


Work has begun in earnest on a European project to investigate the beginnings of the universe.

The Chemical Elements as Tracers of the Evolution of the Cosmos (ChETEC) Action is a multidisciplinary, pan-European network to further develop our understanding of the evolution of the universe.

The COST-funded Action, which was granted last year, aims to bring together researchers, scientists and businesses from 27 countries in Europe to answer open questions about the early stages of the universe.

Dr Raphael Hirschi, Chair of the ChETEC Action and Associate Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University, has just returned to the UK after delivering invited talks at conferences in Italy and Korea, where he introduced the ChETEC Action and presented findings from his ERC-funded SHYNE project. His talks were very well received, with participants at both conferences learning how they could get involved in the ChETEC COST Action.

Dr Hirschi is also liaising with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA) in the US, which drives a similar coordination effort in the US in the field of Nuclear Astrophysics.

Dr Hirschi commented: "Raising the profile of the ChETEC Action is key to being able to build comprehensive knowledge hubs and also to further coordinate research at the inter-continental level in this challenging cross-disciplinary field of research."

The next stage of the Action will be a workshop for all members to attend, to be held at Keele University from 9-11th of October 2017. This workshop will involve all four of the Action’s working groups, who will set-up knowledge hubs and coordinate research activities to answer key open questions such as: "What is the role of neutrinos and their oscillations in supernova explosions and their ejecta composition?"

Two training schools for researchers are also planned; in Paris in September 2017, and in Bucharest in April 2018.

Dr Hirschi said: "I am very excited about the training schools, where PhD students and researchers will learn state-of-the-art techniques and gain valuable hands-on experience. This is a unique opportunity for many PhD students across Europe, who could not obtain such training at their home institute or even elsewhere in their country. Short-term scientific missions have also started and will boost collaborations across our network."

To find out more about the ChETEC COST Action, visit the project website

Stardome project wins national widening participation and outreach award

THE Awards

The Astrophysics group's "Stardome", a portable planetarium for schools, developed by Prof Rob Jeffries using funding from the STFC and Keele's alumni fund, won the Times Higher Education Supplement Widening Participation and Outreach initiative of the year award.

The 6-m diameter inflatable planetarium is taken to around 35 local schools and 4000 school pupils per year by Prof Jeffries and a team of "Keele student ambassadors". The project is administered by Keele's widening participation team. Pupils learn about the cosmos, stellar evolution, the search for alien life and Keele's role in discovering exoplanetary systems around other stars.