The University of Leicester has won 2.56 million to create a national astronomy facility for the benefit of industry and academia.

This award will allow the UK to compete at the highest level in this global field - and reaffirms the University of Leicester's world-class standing in space and planetary science.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury and Education Minister Baroness Blackstone today announced details of awards worth 70m to more than 50 universities. The funding provides universities with the latest scientific hardware, with which they can develop and support advanced research projects.

Professor Ken Pounds, head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, said: "The University welcomes the announcement by the Joint Research Equipment Initiative (JREI) of the award of a multi-million pound supercomputer for astrophysical calculations.

"The supercomputer, called UKAFF (UK Astrophysical Fluids Facility) will be located in Leicester, and allow astronomers to calculate events such as the death throes of a star being swallowed by a black hole, and how planetary systems form."

The bid was made by a consortium of 23 UK university groups led by Professor Andrew King of the University of Leicester and Professor James Pringle of the University of Cambridge. Backed by a leading computer company, it received the support of the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). UK Astronomers will bid to use the machine on the basis of competitive proposals.

Professor King said: "This is very exciting news. The UK is a world leader in theoretical astronomy, but this position has been under threat because of a lack of world-class supercomputing facilities. UKAFF will remedy this and allow British astronomers to compete at the highest level.

"The collaboration with the computer industry will exploit and develop cutting-edge technology, and there will be an associated fellowship scheme to encourage this. There is great interest from industry, as many astrophysical calculations involve techniques which are equally useful in industrial applications.

"We are delighted to be chosen to host this facility. This is a reflection of the University's strength in theoretical astrophysics in particular, and in astronomy and space in general."

The University of Leicester is a co-founder of and principal participant in the National Space Science Centre, a 46 million facility to be opened in Leicester in 2001.


For more information, please contact Andrew King on 0116 252 2072, Email: ark@star.le.ac.uk.

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Last updated: 11 January 2000 15:16
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