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University of Leicester

Published on 26 February 2019

​Participant 3: University of Leicester (ULeic)

The University of Leicester has ~23000 students, employs over 3000 people and has a turnover of around 300 million euros. The Department of Physics and Astronomy ( ) has five leading research groups covering astrophysics, space science, earth observation (EO) and knowledge exchange / technology transfer ( ). All the University’s space- and EO-related activities have now been brought within the recently formed ‘Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation’ ( ), comprising ~200 staff. The Department has a distinguished record in high-energy astrophysics dating back to 1960, and has played a leading role in many X-ray observatories from Ariel-V to XMM-Newton and Swift. Its astrophysics project  developments now include substantial involvements in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST; infrared; NASA/ESA/CSA), Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA; very-high energy gamma rays; international consortium); Athena (X-ray; ESA); SVOM (X-ray; China/France); Gaia (ESA). The Department has a research programme encompassing a wide range of current observational and theoretical astrophysics including: exoplanets and their host stars; brown- and white-dwarf stars; normal, starburst and active galaxies; clusters of galaxies; deep extragalactic surveys; accretion on various size-scales from individual stellar systems to active galactic nuclei. The Department was home to the XMM-Newton EPIC and Survey Science Centre teams, and is home to the UK Swift Science Data Centre. The Department is involved in the infra-red sky survey UKIDSS and the NGTS exoplanet survey. It is a member of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, and had a strong involvement in the development of the Virtual Observatory through its role in the UK

AstroGrid project and both VO-TECH and VO-DCA at the European level. Thus, the Department has extensive experience and skills in designing and developing data-processing and analysis software for major space (and ground-based) projects, including selection and testing of appropriate scientific algorithms, and construction and validation of astronomical-source catalogues and databases. The University’s Space Research Centre (SRC) building provides laboratories, engineering support, clean rooms and test facilities for instrument development. The SRC also operates an extensive set of facilities for instrumentation calibration and test. The SRC’s activities focus primarily on instrumentation and mission development for space astrophysics, and on instrumentation, mission development and data analysis and modelling for planetary science. The SRC also has an extensive portfolio of Knowledge Exchange/Technology transfer activities, including long-standing ones arising from its developments in X-ray detectors for space use. The

Department has a strong public-outreach programme ( ), including extensive engagement with schools and their students; there are close links with the National Space Centre educational and visitor centre, also in Leicester. The Department had a leading role with NSC, in establishing a long-term exhibit and display area devoted to JWST, with a full-size, former test model of MIRI as centrepiece.

Role in ExoplANETS-A: The University of Leicester will participate in WPs 1, 4, 5 and 6, including leadership of WP4. J. Pye will coordinate and manage EXOPLANETS-A activities at Leicester, and will lead WP4. J.Nichols will provide expertise in the analysis and understanding of HST data for exoplanet host stars and application to exoplanetary atmospheres (WP4, WP5).