A Star is Born

Professor Turlough Downes has spent his whole life reaching for the stars. As a child he remembers gazing up at distant constellations in the night sky. And in his current role as Astrophysicist and Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences at DCU and Director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Relativity (C-fAR) he… well, he gazes up at distant constellations in the night sky. Of course, these days his research has a bit more focus; in particular, unravelling the mysteries of how stars are formed. And because telescopes can only show so much, a huge amount of computation is needed to run simulations based on the data collected, for which Professor Downes uses supercomputers provided by an EU organisation called PRACE. “I use a mixture of theory, observation and simulation to figure out the characteristics of star-forming regions.

The theory is what we can work out about the physics of how stars form, and we develop that over time, helped by observations from telescopes. Then we can push our knowledge even further by building simulations to test out lots of different ideas about what might be going on.” Along with his colleagues, Professor Downes’ research covers a broad range of extra-terrestrial aspects, from black holes to general relativity and the physics of gravitational waves. CfAR also engages in a lot of public outreach events about space, hosting talks and running events to whet the appetite of the next generation of astrophysicists – stellar work from these researchers. For more on CfAR, see www.cfar.ie