A team led by a professor of astrophysics from Queen’s University Belfast, is set to go on a five-year mission to hunt for the universe’s first exploding stars, known as supernovae.
Professor Stephen Smartt will head a team of 12 international scientists who will come to Queen’s to begin work on the project next month.
The team hopes to gain an understanding of the origin of chemical elements.
“With this research, we hope to understand how chemical elements were first created in the universe - we think that they were created by the explosions of the most massive stars,” the BBC quoted Professor Smartt, director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s, as saying.
“The project has an ambitious goal to find the first supernovae that exploded in the universe,” he said.
The research was made possible by a 2.3 million euro European Research Council grant, regarded as the most prestigious research grant in Europe for funding Science and Social Sciences.
“Just recently we have made new discoveries of the brightest supernovae ever found and this grant will build on that success,” Professor Smartt said.
Professor James McElnay, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates at Queen’s, said this year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to two teams “who used exploding stars to map the shape and expansion of the Universe”.
“These pioneering studies of exploding stars, or supernovae, has led astronomers and physicists to develop new technologies for mapping the skies,” he said.