Alumni: The Bath Physics Observatory

Project: Other

Project Details


We want to offer high-quality observation astrophysics projects to our undergraduate students that are research led yet offer the chance of “hands-on” practical astronomy. Astronomy is one of the few sciences where the data (star-light!) can be seen by all. Yet, there is a disconnect between sitting in a lecture hall and hearing about, say the orbits of the planets, and where the planet may be in the sky and how to observe it. With the advent of the new Physics with Astrophysics degree at Bath, and high-quality “back-garden” astronomy now being cheap enough, and standard computers powerful enough to produce original research, the time is right to set up the Bath Physics Observatory.

The next major step towards this goal is to have the telescopes permanently mounted and aligned. This is critical to performing prolonged measurements, of say faint galaxies, or the variable luminosity of star light for either planet hunting or to determine the age of the Universe through the Hubble constant. All these projects would push undergraduate projects into real research projects and are tantalisingly within reach. Such a permanent home for the telescopes will remove hours of tedious (but critical) alignment every night. Removing this step will allow much more time for observing and in nicer condition than an open field.

Layman's description

To briefly expand on one topic, to understand the working of the cosmos, we must first build a map. But how far away are the stars? All we have is a measure of their brightness. They could be bright and far away or close and dim. How would you know? It turns out a particular family of stars bink, or at least have variable brightness output. We can map the frequency of the blinking to their absolute brightness and hence for any such variable star measure its absolute distance. The first step is to map the frequency of variability to their absolute distance measured independently by their parallax. But parallax measurements can only be made on nearby stars, which means they are too bright for even the smallest (1 meter) professional observatory to measure. But they are just right for our small-telescopes.
Short title£7,350
Effective start/end date1/03/2028/02/22


  • observatory
  • astrophysics
  • QB Astronomy


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