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Nature of astronomical research

Astronomy is a unique discipline which combines top science, cutting-edge technology and education, and inspires and excites the general public. Thanks to powerful new telescopes and instruments, many new discoveries have been made in recent years. Constraints on the nature of the mysterious dark energy and dark matter, which comprise 95% of the Universe, are being made. Light from the earliest galaxies emitted when the Universe was only 3% of its current age demonstrates even more vigorous star formation than expected at that early stage. Large scale computer simulations provide increasingly realistic insight into the physical processes that shape galaxies. Mergers of dying stars are at the origin of the most powerful explosions in the Universe, whereas the origin and composition of cosmic ray particles produced in some of these explosions is being unraveled. The formation history of our Milky Way and neighboring galaxies is being revealed through detailed studies of the motions and elemental abundances of individual stars. Within our Galaxy, more than 3000 exoplanets have now been found, the majority of which have masses between those of Earth and Neptune, surprisingly different from our Solar System planets. New facilities allow astronomers to zoom in on the construction sites of new stars and planets, where increasingly complex organic molecules, the precursors of life, are found.

The NOVA research program:  The life-cycle of stars and galaxies

The research program carried out by NOVA ‘The lifecycle of stars and galaxies: from high-redshift to the present’ is organized along the following three interconnected thematic programs (also called ‘networks’):

Network 1: Formation and evolution of galaxies: from high redshift to the present

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Network 2: Formation and evolution of stars and planetary systems

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Network 3: Astrophysics in extreme conditions

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Each network consists of 15-20 active staff researchers with strong scientific records. The networks have regular (two to three times per year) face-to-face meetings with scientific presentations, mostly by PhD students and postdocs. Subgroups of researchers from different universities focusing on more specialized topics also meet regularly.