Professor of Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Michael Merrifield was educated at Oxford and Harvard, and worked as a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto an at the University of Southampton. He was appointed to a chair at the University of Nottingham in 1999, where he was instrumental in setting up the University's research activity in astronomy. He has served as both admissions tutor and head of school for the School of Physics and Astronomy. He has worked extensively in outreach, with his work on the Sixty Symbols YouTube channel recognised by the award of the Institute of Physics' Kelvin Medal and Prize.
Michael's main area of research is in studying nearby galaxies to reconstruct their formation and evolution. He also has a wide range of other research interests, ranging from X-ray astronomy to the application of electoral theory in allocating scientific resources.
He has extensive experience in outreach, and many appearances in the media, both conventional and online.
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
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.
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.
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