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Virtual Universe

Between Friday 11 and Sunday 20 March, we’re celebrating British Science Week. From the sea to the stars, our community helps shape and make sense of the world around us. In a five-part series, we’re highlighting some of our most significant research breakthroughs from the last 12 months.

We’re active members of a global community of scientists searching for answers to some of the biggest questions today: How do galaxies form? What are dark matter and dark energy? And what will be the ultimate fate of the universe?

Scientists unveil most accurate virtual representation of the Universe

An international team of researchers, including Professor Carlos Frenk, Professor Adrian Jenkins and Dr. John Helly from our Department of Physics, has produced the largest and most accurate computer simulation to date of our local patch of the Universe.

Take off for James Webb Space Telescope 

We’ve played a key role in the development and engineering of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which has begun its journey to the stars. The JWST is NASA’s replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope and is the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built. 

Our scientists will also be among the first to observe the cosmos using the JWST as they hunt for dark matter and investigate early galaxy formation. 
Most detailed-ever images of galaxies revealed with LOFAR.

An international team of astronomers, led by our very own Dr Leah Morabito, has revealed the most detailed-ever radio images of galaxies at frequencies around the FM radio band. The images have been created from data collected, over almost a decade, by the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), a network of over 70,000 small antennae spread across nine European countries. 

The LOFAR network captures images at FM radio frequencies which, unlike shorter wavelength sources like visible light, are not blocked by clouds of dust or gas, allowing astronomers to peer into star-forming regions and the hearts of galaxies themselves. 

Gigantic helium balloon to launch space telescope 

Our astronomers are part of an international team building a new kind of telescope. It weighs as much as a car and will be launched to the edge of space by a helium balloon the size of a football stadium. 

The Superpressure balloon-Borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) will take high resolution pictures of the universe and our scientists will use it to measure the properties of dark matter. 

Find out more