press release
Published: 12 December 2023

Extra £1.7m funding for space research will help unlock the secrets of dark matter

It’s more important than ever to get to the bottom of the dark matter mystery, say University of Surrey scientists as they celebrate £1.7million in funding to help tackle some of the universe’s trickiest questions.

The funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council will fund five pioneering studies at Surrey.

The funding will support three new postdoctoral research assistants to work on the following problems.  

What is dark matter?

Some of the smallest galaxies by mass in the known universe don’t contain as much dark matter as we’d expect them to. This might mean re-thinking what dark matter is like, and how these galaxies formed.

In the past, these galaxies have been hard to study – because it’s hard to tell whether a faint object is a distant galaxy or a nearby star. The new Vera Rubin telescope in Chile will let a team from Surrey, led by Dr Michelle Collins, see more of them – helping us refine our understanding of what dark matter is really like.

Gravitational waves

Since even light cannot escape from a black hole, they’re very difficult to study. But pairs of supermassive black holes can produce gravitational waves – first detected in 2015 – which could give us new insight into how they form and grow.

Using artificial intelligence to speed up their calculations, a team led by Dr Alessia Gualandris will develop a theory of how pairs of black holes form – so that when we observe gravitational waves, we have a better understanding of what we’re looking at.

The oldest star clusters

A third study, led by Prof Justin Read, will use a powerful computer model to work out how the Universe's oldest clusters of stars formed. First discovered in 1665, they remain an enigma. For the first time, Professor Read’s team hopes to model how they emerged.

Join us and study our MSc programmes in Physics or in Space Engineering.

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