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Particle Astrophysics

Black holes

Coalescing black holes
(Credit: The SXS (Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes) Project)

The STFC funded programmes in Particle Astrophysics focus on the areas of gravitational waves, gamma ray astronomy, neutrinos and the search for dark matter. These programmes aim to achieve STFC’s Science Challenges which highlight the current global scientific challenges. The STFC strategy is built around its challenges which sets future scientific opportunities and options out in a structured way. Information on STFC funded Particle Astrophysics programmes can be found in the links below.

Gravitational Wave Detectors offer an opportunity to see the Universe from a new perspective, opening up a new field of astrophysics. Detectable gravitational waves will come from huge astronomical events, such as colliding black holes or supernovae. Investigating these events will provide information on pulsars, compact binaries, the origins of our Universe and provide an insight into the secrets of our Universe.

The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will be a major step forward in sensitivity and precision for high energy gamma ray astronomy and will address key questions in astrophysics and fundamental physics. Prototyping work is now underway which will position UK groups to bid for a substantial involvement in the future construction of CTA.

Direct detection of Dark Matter is the subject of competing projects worldwide based on liquid-xenon and cryogenic semiconductor technologies. UK groups are positioned to participate in collaborations using either of these technologies. LUX ZEPLIN is a next generation experiment to detect and study dark matter in the US.

Gravitational Waves 2020 Call

STFC is inviting proposals for the Gravitational Waves 2020 call. Proposals requesting funds for Advanced LIGO operations as well as those looking to exploit the data are welcome. 

Most important dates

Call open


Closing date for grant proposals and Form X


For details on call guidance and all the relevant dates please see here.

Please see the STFC Gravitational Waves Remit.

2019 Strategic Review of Dark Matter

In 2019, STFC undertook a strategic review of dark matter research in the UK to establish a clear strategy for longer term investment that maintains a UK presence at the cutting edge of the field, takes into account future opportunities, and possibly leads to hosting a 3rd Generation instrument. This review considered the 2012 Strategic Review of Dark Matter, how the recommendations from that review have been implemented; the current programme and recommend a strategy for future investment. It involved a community consultation exercise. You can read the published review here.

Particle Astrophysics Advisory Panel

The Particle Astrophysics Advisory Panel (PAAP) provides a link between Science Board and the particle astrophysics community, and represents the needs of the community to STFC.

Astroparticle Physics European Consortium

APPEC logo

(Credit: APPEC)

STFC is part of the Astroparticle Physics European Consortium (APPEC). APPEC aims to facilitate and coordinate Particle Astrophysics in Europe by developing long term strategies, expressing the views of European Astroparticle Physics in international forums, and establishing a system of peer review assessment applicable to projects in which APPEC members are involved.

Funding for Particle Astrophysics

Funding for Particle Astrophysics exploitation can be obtained through the Particle Physics or Astronomy Consolidated Grants programmes. For further information please see the funding page.

Funding for large projects or project research and development can be applied for through the Projects Peer Review Panel or Project Research and Development scheme.

Key Science Questions

Particle Astrophysics research aims to answer fundamental questions such as:

  • What are the fundamental constituents and fabric of the universe and how do they interact?
  • What are the properties of neutrinos and what is their role in cosmic evolution?
  • What is the origin of cosmic rays?
  • How can we explore and understand the extremes of the universe?
  • What are the properties of neutrinos?
  • How can high energy particles and gravitational waves tell us about the extreme universe?

Further information on STFCs Science Challenges can be found on the Science Challenges webpage.


STFC operates a Particle Astrophysics mailing list to inform the community of relevant information from STFC and the Particle Astrophysics Advisory Panel. If you wish to subscribe please send an email with no subject and in the main body the words SUBSCRIBE PAAP-ML to listserv@jiscmail.ac.uk.

Last updated: 02 November 2020


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