Department of Physics

The Building Blocks of the Universe: Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Particle Physics


Auckland scientists are tackling problems in particle physics, astronomy and astrophysics. These fields are increasingly interlinked by questions around the nature of dark energy and dark matter, as well as the challenge of discovering new fundamental particles.

We’re involved in major international collaborations, including the Microlensing in Astrophysics (MOA) survey, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The University of Auckland is home to the state-of-the-art BPASS stellar population synthesis code, which is used by astrophysicists in many countries. We’re also developing new ways of employing space-based observations to gather data about the Universe. Our platforms range from locally developed microsatellites to NASA and ESA missions.

David Krofcheck seeks to reveal the nature of the strong nuclear force by colliding heavy ions at the LHC. Richard Easther focusses on the origin and evolution of the Universe. He also studies the interaction between cosmological models and the theories of particle physics that give rise to them. Nicholas Rattenbury is searching for planets around other stars by using gravitational microlensing. He’s also developing “data mining” tools to discover new classes of astronomical objects. JJ Eldridge researches the evolution of stars and, as a result, the overall evolution of the visible Universe. This leads him to explore the progenitors of supernova explosions and gravitational wave signals.

Our colleagues in the Department of Statistics, Renate Meyer and Brendon Brewer, are developing advanced statistical tools for solving problems in astronomy and astrophysics, including the detection of gravitational waves.

Research stories

  • The Little Bang Theory: Smashing Atoms at the LHC
    20 April 2016
    Dr David Krofchek is about to use CERN’s upgraded Large Hadron Collider to test aspects of string theory. He’ll smash together atomic nuclei of lead and observe the fluid behaviour of immensely squeezed nuclear matter.
  • Twin Suns: Binary Stars and Supernovae
    19 April 2016
    Dr JJ Eldridge is building a unique set of computer codes to model the development and cataclysmic annihilation of stars that end their lives as supernovae.
  • Gravitational Microlensing: The Hunt for Exoplanets
    19 April 2016
    Dr Nicholas Rattenbury is locating extra-solar worlds through gravitational microlensing. In this technique, the gravitational field of a star magnifies an even more distant one -- and sometimes reveals its orbiting planets.