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Professor Stephen Serjeant

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Professor of Astronomy
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Physical Sciences

Professional biography

  • Professor of Astronomy

email address

Publications (NASA ADS)

Books

Research interests

For a list of my research interests, please visit my personal web pages

    Teaching interests

    Research Activity

    Research groups

    NameTypeParent Unit
    Astronomy Research GroupGroupFaculty of Science
    Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)CentreFaculty of Science

     

    Externally funded projects

    Consolidated Grant - Astronomy Observation and Astronomy Theory (AO & AT 2016)

    RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
    Lead01/Apr/201731/Mar/2020STFC (Science & Technology Facilities Council)
    Our research programme, Astronomy at the Open University, covers the breadth of cosmic evolution, from dark energy to the birth of planets. We do this research by observation, laboratory experiments, simulations and modelling. We use purpose-designed laboratories and instruments, and instruments on telescopes and spacecraft to make our observations and measurements. Our group is based in the Department of Physical Sciences at the OU. So what are we trying to find out? We have 8 separate projects, from exoplanets and stars to distant galaxies. We already know a lot about how the Solar System came about. The Sun and planets formed from a cloud of dust and gas about 4570 million years ago. The cloud collapsed to a spinning disk and dust and gas spiralled inwards. The core of the disk became hot, forming the Sun, while the leftover dust and gas formed the planets. Boulders gravitated together to make planets, but no-one knows how the dust grains became boulders. We are experimenting with colliding centimetre-sized particles in zero-gravity conditions to see if they stick together, to find the missing link in how planets form. We also look at processes that cause stars to change as they age. Only recently has it been recognised that so many stars are binary systems, where two or more stars are in close association and affect each others' motion. Such systems affect the way mass and energy is lost from a star, and how they are transferred into the interstellar medium. We will study how 'binarity' affects the behaviour of massive stars (>20 times the mass of the Sun) and low mass stars (< the mass of the Sun), and how star populations change as they age. Studying these effects is vital, because the environment of a star influences any planets that surround it. Many hundreds of planets have been discovered around other stars (exoplanets) and we are working to describe the range of properties of these planets, especially when they are located close to their central star. A star can even completely destroy a close-in exoplanet, which could be an important new source of dust in the nearby universe and even in distant galaxies in the early Universe. Also in the early Universe, we can use the way that galaxies warp space and time to learn about the dark matter that surrounds them, and the dark energy that drives them apart. What else do we do? We build and test instruments for ground-based telescopes and for space missions, striving to make them smaller and lighter, and explore how they can be used on Earth for medical or security purposes. One of the most important benefits of our research is that it helps to train and inspire students: the next generation of scientists and engineers. We also enjoy telling as many people as possible about our work, and what we have learned from it about our origins.

    Ogden Science Officer / Citizen Science Research Fellow

    RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
    Lead01/Sep/201531/Aug/2018The Ogden Trust
    The Ogden Trust is providing matched funding to a maximum of £75k for 3 years for an 0.5 FTE outreach post, that we can add to the ASTERICS post and can therefore recruit a full-time postdoctoral research assistant.

    Astronomy ESFRI and Research Infrastructure Clusters

    RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
    Lead01/Sep/201531/Aug/2019EC (European Commission): FP(inc.Horizon2020, H2020, ERC)
    15 million euro response to INFRADEV-4 to support all major European research infrastructures in astronomy, in the ESFRI roadmap. The OU is leading the outreach work package, with a maximum value of approx. 0.5 million euro.

    Astronomy and Planetary Sciences at the Open University

    RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
    Co-investigator01/Apr/201431/Mar/2017STFC (Science & Technology Facilities Council)
    The aim of our programme in Astronomy & Planetary Science at the Open University (APSOU) is to carryout detailed investigations of the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planets with a special emphasis on our own Solar System through a combination of observation, simulation, laboratory analysis and theoretical modelling. Our research is divided into two broad areas, reflecting the historical research strengths. This research programme is well-matched to both nationally- and internationally-agreed research imperatives. In its final report, A Science Vision for European Astronomy2, Astronet’s Science Working Group identified four broad areas of strategic importance; our research covers major topics within each of these areas. APSOU projects also map onto two of the four Science Challenges that form STFC’s Road Map3 for science (‘How did the universe begin and how is it evolving?’ and ‘How do stars and planetary systems develop and is life unique to our planet?’). The present APSOU programme comprises 20 projects (labelled A to T), of which 6 are for consideration by the Astronomy Observation (AO) panel, 1 for Astronomy Theory (AT), and 13 for the Planetary Studies (PL) panel. The AO projects cover the breadth of the 7 themes recognised as UK strengths in the report of STFC’s Astronomy Advisory Panel (AAP), whilst the 13 PL projects are directed towards answering questions raised in two of the three themes identified as UK strengths in the roadmap of STFC’s Solar System Advisory Panel (SSAP)4.

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