School of Physics & Astronomy
   
   
  
 

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Michael Merrifield

Professor of Astronomy, Faculty of Science

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Teaching Summary

Undergraduate Modules:

Research Summary

I study the structure of nearby galaxies, to try and reconstruct how they formed. This archaeological approach complements the research of other astronomers here in Nottingham who look at very… read more

Recent Publications

I am a regular speaker at schools, colleges, astronomical societies, Cafes Scientifiques, etc. I am very interested in the interface between science and art; in my spare time I run an astronomical sculpture company (crystalnebulae.co.uk), which produces accurate representations of astronomical objects cut by laser in crystal glass. I am also closely involved in the University's programme of YouTube videos, Sixty Symbols, which is designed to present cutting-edge research to the widest possible audience.

Current Research

I study the structure of nearby galaxies, to try and reconstruct how they formed. This archaeological approach complements the research of other astronomers here in Nottingham who look at very distant galaxies, whose light has taken so long to reach us that we see them as they were in the distant past. The archaeological approach has two main benefits: first, we know what the "final product" galaxy looks like, and second the closeness of these systems means that we can obtain very high quality data to search for subtle clues to their formation. One particularly useful clue comes from looking at the dynamics of these systems, since the motions of their stars provide literally a whole extra dimension of information. In pursuit of this information, I have been closely involved in the development of the unique Planetary Nebula Spectrograph, which allows us to study the motions of stars in the outermost parts of galaxies, tracing both the dynamics in regions where the history of the galaxy is likely to be imprinted and probing the dark matter halo, whose mass dictates the orbits that stars follow.

For more details see the Astronomy Group web pages.

School of Physics and Astronomy

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 [0]115 951 5183
fax: +44 [0]115 951 5180
email: physics-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk