The Astrophysics Research Group was established at Liverpool John Moores University in February 1992. Since then it has grown to its present size of over 40 individuals with further rapid expansion planned. During this period it has attracted significant PPARC and EU grants and was one of only two university physics departments in the UK to show an improvement of 3 grades between the 1992 and 1996 national Research Assessment Exercises. In August 2000 the Astrophysics Research Institute became an independent department within the University. An Advisory Board, including senior university staff and external representatives, provides guidance to the Institute from a wider perspective.
Current research spans topics in stellar astronomy including novae and related stars; regions of star formation; brown dwarfs, extra-solar planets and the environments of Be stars. Work in the area of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology encompasses galactic dynamics; interacting and merging galaxies; the evolution of galaxies, and large-scale structure.
The Institute houses a node of the STARLINK system for data reduction and analysis. It also holds a PPARC PATT rolling grant to fund travel for observational work at telescopes around the world and a PPARC Visiting Fellows grant to enable collaborators to spend extended periods working within the Institute. Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Assistants, Research Students and technical and secretarial staff are funded by PPARC grants or University (RAE) research funds.
A major initiative that the Institute is involved in is the Liverpool Telescope project funded in part by an EU grant. Project partners are PPARC, the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, and Merseyside industry. Our primary aim is to re-establish the UK's ability to build large optical telescopes, and to base the enterprise in the Merseyside region. The prototype instrument, the 2m Liverpool Telescope, will be the World's largest robotic telescope, and will be in full scientific operation on La Palma in the Canaries in 2003. The Institute will be responsible for running this telescope, and will have a significant amount of guaranteed time in which to conduct observing programmes. The telescope, and its successors, will be built on Merseyside by a subsidiary company of JMU, Telescope Technologies Limited.
Members of the Institute are also involved with Physics with Astronomy B.Sc. and Astrophysics M.Phys. degrees in conjuction with the University of Liverpool Physics Department, a variety of distance learning programmes and the National Schools' Observatory. In the recent QAA teaching quality assessment exercise conducted together with the Physics Department of the University of Liverpool we were awarded a maximum TQA score of 24 out of 24.