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News Archive


Prof Tom Ray got to visit the site of the Extremely Large Telescope in Chile recently, the build having now achieved the 50% completion mark. Congratulations on his new roles as the next President of the European Southern Observatory’s Council! Read more here.

Congratulations to David McKenna who passed his PhD viva voce examination on 20 November on “Characterising Pulsars with Low-Frequency Software Telescopes”!

A team of European astronomers, including researchers from DIAS Astronomy & Astrophysics Section used recent observations made with the James Webb Space Telescope to study the atmosphere of the nearby exoplanet WASP-107b. Read more here.

We were delighted to host the James Webb Space Telescope MIRI European Consortium Meeting at the Royal Irish Academy on 26-29 September!

A team of astronomers led by Prof Tom Ray have captured one of the most advanced images of a stellar birth ever taken! It was chosen as the cover image for the Nature issue in which it was published. Read more here.

The Ariel space mission has just passed its Preliminary Design Review! Learn more about the mission and DIAS involvement here.

The 2023 O’Ceallaigh Medal has been awarded to Prof Sunil Gupta at the International Conference on Cosmic Rays for his outstanding contributions to the field of cosmic ray astrophysics during his career.

Developers in the Solar Physics and Space Weather Research Group have just launched a new version of the SolarMonitor.org website that be viewed at solmon.dias.ie! The team welcome feedback by posting an issue to their GitHub issue tracker, emailing them, or by tweeting @solarmonitororg.

The winners of this year’s Reach for the Stars astrophotography competition have been announced! Check out the stunning pictures at reachforthestars.ie and learn more about the winners here.

Prof Tom Ray and Dr Donna Rodgers-Lee are involved in a new study using JWST observations to find water for the first time in the inner disk around a young star with giant planets! Learn more about the work recently published in Nature here.

Congratulations to Solar Physics PhD student Shilpi Bhunia who has been selected to work at the European Space Agency on solar flares using data from the Solar Orbiter spacecraft as part of the Archival Research Visitor Programme!

We are delighted to welcome Dr Johanna Vos to the Section after being awarded a prestigious Royal Society – SFI University Research Fellowship to study exometeorology – weather on worlds beyond our own!

Prof Tom Ray and Dr Donna Rodgers-Lee were involved in a paper recently published in Nature Astronomy that used the MIRI instrument onboard the Webb Space Telescope to probe the inner regions of the disk surrounding a red dwarf star which is much smaller than our Sun! Read more here.

ESA JUICE spacecraft launched successfully on 14 April, which the Planetary Magnetospheres Group is involved with! Learn more about DIAS involvement at dias.ie/juice.

Congratulations to Dr Shane Maloney for winning an EU Horizon 2020 grant to investigate machine learning techniques for solar flare forecasting! DIAS is the lead partner of a European-wide consortium of experts in solar physics, machine learning, and cloud computing. Learn more about the project at arcaff.eu!

Welcome to new Research Fellows Dr Palmira Jimenez-Hernandez, Dr Charles Bowers, Dr Matthew Rutala, and Dr Paul Wright!

  • Palmira joins the Computational and High Energy Astrophysics Group. She is an expert on Wolf-Rayet stars and their nebulae, modelling of photoionization and circumstellar dust (using CLOUDY), stellar evolution and infrared astronomy.
  • Charlie joins the Planetary Magnetospheres Group. His PhD was on magnetic fields/plasmas/aurora at Mars, with focus on the MAVEN mission. He will move closer to the Sun at DIAS, working on the planet Mercury, using heritage data from NASA MESSENGER and getting ready for BepiColombo which will arrive at Mercury in 2025.
  • Matt joins the Planetary Magnetospheres Group. His PhD was on Jupiter’s aurora using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. He will be working at DIAS with data from the NASA Juno mission to Jupiter, complemented by remote auroral/radio observations.
  • Paul joins the Solar Physics and Space Weather group, returning to academia after some time working in industry in spatial computing. He will primarily be working on the ARCAFF project, forecasting solar flares using solar EUV and magnetogram data. 

Congratulations to Thomas Long who was awarded the 2022 IOP Ireland Earnshaw Award at the Institute of Physics Spring Weekend in Armagh for the best undergraduate project of 2022! Thomas undertook his final year TCD Astrophysics project in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Section in 2021 under the supervision of Shane Maloney and Peter Gallagher. The project entitled “Type III Solar Radio Bursts and Associated X-ray Emission” used data from LOFAR and Solar Orbiter. Thomas is now a PhD student at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, where he is working on the LHCb experiment at CERN studying B mesons. 

We are excited to see the return of the Columbia-DIAS-Yale initiative seminar series after a summer break! Learn more about CDY here.


It was wonderful to have many of our staff and students meet at DIAS Dunsink Observatory for a recent Astro Day in March sharing our research updates. Many haven’t seen each other (or even met in person) since the pandemic began!

The ‘Milky Way Arch over Pine Island’ and ‘A Fiery Rosette’ were selected as the 2022 winning images in the Reach for the Stars astrophotography competition. A special School of Cosmic Physics 75th Anniversary Prize was also awarded to ‘Zodiacal Light above Cliffs of Moher’. Read more here.

New Appointments

Welcome to new PhD students Jereon Jaspers and Shauna Rose Raeside! Jereon is working with Dr Paddy Kavanagh and Prof Tom Ray with the Webb Space Telescope guaranteed time observations of SN1987A and its neighbourhood in the 30 Doradus star-forming region. Shauna is working with Dr Donna Rodgers Lee and Prof Tom Ray on researching the impact of energetic particles on the atmospheres of exoplanets and protoplanetary disks around low-mass stars.

Welcome to Stephenie Brophy Lee, a new Technical Officer in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section! Stephenie will be primarily based at our Fitzwilliam Place site. Stephenie will be combining her experience in astrophysics and administration (supply chain and product development) to support research activities across the section.

Welcome to Dr. Mika Holmberg, who has been granted funding from the Discovery programme of the European Space Agency (ESA) to maximise the scientific outcome of planetary missions with ESA’s Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Software. Read more about the project here.

Welcome to Sadhbh Leahy who joins our team at DIAS Dunsink Observatory as a Public Engagement Officer in Data and Space Science!

Research Activities

Congratulations to Prof Caitriona Jackman for winning an IRC Consolidator Laureate award! The SOLMEX project will fund 3 postdocs over 4 years in her Planetary Magnetospheres Group to study Solar System Magnetospheric Extremes.

Congratulations to Dr Alexandra Fogg and Dr Robert Brose who have won IRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowships! Alexandra will be researching the consequences of solar wind pressure pulses for the terrestrial magnetosphere-ionosphere system, while Robert will investigate the particles and radiation that are emitted by high-energy sources in our milky way, to try and find the most likely sources of life.

We celebrated the inaugural lecture of Prof Caitríona Jackman at DIAS Dunsink Observatory on 9th September. A wonderful evening was had by all, read more about it here.

We enjoyed welcoming professional and amateur astronomers from across Ireland and beyond to DIAS Dunsink Observatory in early September for the Irish National Astronomy Meeting!

Embracing a rejected star – new results from Dr Sam Green just published in Astronomy and Astrophysics! Read more here.

Congratulations to Prof Tom Ray and Dr Paddy Kavanagh who were involved in the successful full commissioning of the MIRI instrument onboard the Webb Space Telescope! We held a special event at DIAS Dunsink Observatory on the 12th of July to watch the live release of the first images from Webb.

Researchers at DIAS Astrophysics are involved in an exciting new study using the H.E.S.S. telescope array to observe time-dependent particle acceleration outside our solar system for the first time! Read more about the results just published in Science Magazine here.

Jupiter’s auroras have long been known as sources of low-energy X-ray light. A new study involving Prof Jackman finally reveals high-energy emissions – and why they eluded another mission 30 years ago. Read more about the results just published in Nature Astronomy here.

The Solar and Space Weather Group have made it into the second round of the ESA Nanosatellites for Space Weather campaign. Learn more about our SURROUND constellation idea here.

The James Webb Space Telescope has been successfully launched and deployed! Professor Tom Ray and his team at DIAS work on the Mid Infra-Red Instrument onboard. Read more here from a pre-launch article.


New Appointments

Congratulations to Prof Caitriona Jackman who has been appointed the first ever female senior professor of physics at DIAS! Read more here.

Welcome to new PhD students Elizabeth O’Dwyer and Christopher Burger-Scheidlin who will be working with Prof Caitriona Jackman and Dr Jonathan Mackey.

Welcome to Dr Alasdair Wilson from Trinity College Dublin who will be working on development of the SolarMonitor.org website with the Solar Physics and Space Weather Research Group.

Welcome back to Dr Tadhg Garton, starting a new IRC Enterprise Partnership Scheme Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Planetary Magnetospheres Research Group in collaboration with stream BIRR.

We are delighted to announce that Prof Tom Ray has been appointed the new Director of the School of Cosmic Physics!

Prof Antonella Natta has been appointed an Adjunct Professor and Dr Léa Griton an Adjunct Fellow in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Section at DIAS. Read more about them here.

Research Activities

Dr Simon Purser was part of a team that observed the evolution of warm gas coming from an active black hole for the first time. Read more about the results published in Nature Astronomy here.

In October Dr Patrick Kavanagh was at the James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Balitmore, USA, for the last Launch Rehearsal Exercises before the telescope is launched in December! Patrick develops software for the Mid-Infrared Instrument onboard.

The ‘Star Formation: From Clouds to Discs’ conference was hosted by DIAS from 18-21 October. This conference’s purpose was to bring together experts within the star formation community in tribute to the career of Professor Lee Hartmann. Visit the website for more information: dias.ie/cloudstodiscs.

In September the target launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope was announced as the 18 December 2021! Read more here. The James Webb Space Telescope arrived in French Guiana in October ahead of it’s December launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. Professor Tom Ray and his team at DIAS work on the Mid Infra-Red Instrument onboard! Read more here.

Many of our researchers are involved with the Irish National Astronomy Meeting in early September. As part of the meeting a public talk will be live-streamed on YouTube at 5pm on September 2nd. More information here.

The Ariane 5 rocket upper stage for the James Webb Space Telescope headed for Europe’s Spaceport on 18th August. Professor Tom Ray and his team at DIAS developed the special infrared filters for the Mid Infra-Red Instrument onboard! Read more about the mission here.

Professor Felix Aharonian led a new Science paper that presents the first detection of peta-electron-Volt photons from the Crab Nebula as part of the LHAASO collaboration. Read more here.

Dr Laura Hayes is co-leading a new International Space Science Institute Team, “Bridging New X-ray Observations and Advanced Models of Flare Variability: A Key to Understanding the Fundamentals of Flare Energy Release.”

Prof Felix Aharonian, Dr Jonathan Mackey, and Dr Davit Zargaryan were involved in a H.E.S.S. telescope research collaboration that has helped reveal exceptional cosmic blasts in unprecedented detail. Read more in the press release here.

Prof Felix Aharonian was involved in a new study published in Nature that has helped reveal mysterious cosmic ray factories in the Milky Way. Read more in the press release.

Dr Patrick Kavanagh was involved in a study which revealed new insight into the properties of the Large Magellenic Cloud. Read more in the ESA press release and open access paper.

Astrophotography competition

We had some fantastic entries for the ‘Reach for the Stars’ astrophotography competition in 2021. Launched in December 2020, the competition called for the best astro-photographs taken in Ireland over the period 1st January 2020 to 31st March 2021.  Read more about the winners here.