Hot stars have been an important component of our research programme. They are typically ten thousand times brighter than our sun and they can be seen at great distances. Because they are so bright, they burn their nuclear fuel very quickly and have very short lifetimes of only a few million years. Hence they are ideal for finding out about the current state of our own and other galaxies.
Hot stars are also found in the haloes of spiral galaxies, but are usually lower mass objects that are near the end of their lives. We are particularly interested in those that have exhausted their nuclear fuel and are starting to cool.
The programme is observationally led, with substantial allocations of observing time on large ground-based telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope satellite. The research also makes extensive use of our computer models of how stars emit light.
The image to the right shows the Tarantula Nebula, a spectacular star forming region in a nearby galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. This is the primary target for a European Consortium of astronomers that have used the FLAMES spectrograph on the Very Large Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to study how stars form, evolve and die in such galaxies. This was been awarded Large Programme status by ESO and builds on a very successful programme that used the same instrument to survey both the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds. This latter programme (often called FLAMES-1) was managed and led by QUB Staff.