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LJMU secures €1.7m in funding to uncover ‘dark side’ of the universe

Liverpool John Moores University’s Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) has been awarded €1.7m in funding to help it uncover the ‘dark side’ of the universe.

The new programme will aim to produce large-scale cosmological simulations of the universe in order to interpret observations and determine the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

The European Research Council (ERC) under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme has provided funding for the programme, know as BAHAMAS (BAryons and HAloes of MAssive Systems).

Dr Ian McCarthy, theoretical astrophysicist based at the ARI, who will lead the programme, explains: “It has been known since the 1950s that the universe is expanding.

“Until recently, nearly everyone expected the expansion rate to slow with time, as matter in the universe exerts gravity on all other matter and Einstein’s theory tells us that this should slow the expansion rate of the universe.

“However, we now have compelling evidence that the expansion rate is actually accelerating.

“What drives the acceleration is what astronomers call ‘dark energy’, which is hypothesised to act like a form of anti-gravity that pushes matter and space apart.

“It’s actually dark energy that dominates the energy budget of the universe today. However, very little is known about the mechanism responsible for dark energy or how dark energy should evolve with time.

“A large part of our BAHAMAS efforts will be to rigorously test models for dark energy.

“The grant will also allow us to purchase the advanced computing facilities required to do this kind of research. Our goal over the coming five years is to redefine the state-of-the-art for theoretical predictions for the evolution of the universe and to better understand its ‘dark’ side.”

The funding will also allow for the development of the programme and the recruitment of postdoctoral scientific staff and PhD students.