Director: Professor Luke Drury
The School of Cosmic Physics was established in 1947 (Statutory Rules and Orders, 1947, no 77) as the third constituent school of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Its purpose is to use the ideas and methods of Physics to understand the world around us, from the interior of the Earth to the edges of the observable universe, in effect using the cosmos as a natural laboratory to observe phenomena on time, length and energy scales which are way beyond what is possible in conventional laboratories. The name “Cosmic Physics”, although not a widely used term, is thus highly appropriate. The School originally worked in the areas of classical optical astronomy, cosmic ray physics (which at that time was largely experimental particle physics) and geophysics (which then included meteorology). Over the years the cosmic ray section drifted away from particle physics (which became dominated by experiments at large accelerators such as CERN) and moved into astroparticle physics and high-energy astrophysics to eventually merge with the Astronomy section as a broadly based Astronomy and Astrophysics group incorporating a Centre for Astroparticle Physics and Astrophysics (CAPPA). At the same time the Geophysics section dropped the meteorological work and broadened the range of geophysical techniques used to study the Earth from mainly local gravitational field studies to modern active and passive seismology, magnetotelluric studies, and space-based studies of the Earth’s gravitational and magnetic fields. The Section operates the Irish National Seismic Network and is also the National Data Centre (NDC) for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.
In addition to its primary statutory obligation to explore the universe “at the frontiers of knowledge” and to train students in these areas at postgraduate level, the School also has an active outreach programme seeking to communicate the excitement of its work to the public and in particular to schoolchildren. It runs the long-standing series of open nights at Dunsink Observatory , the very successful Seismology in Schools Programme (Seismeolaíocht sa Scoil) and other outreach events such as the statutory public lecture series. It regularly participates in science week and the BT Young Scientist exhibition, and in association with the RDS and the GSI sponsored the Robert Mallet Exhibition.