News release

Astronomer Royal to launch pioneering new research centre to improve our understanding of the Universe

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20 September 2013

The centre aims to improve our understanding of the Universe

The University of Southampton is launching a new pioneering research centre that will help improve our understanding of the Universe and the fundamental laws of nature.

The Southampton Theory Astrophysics and Gravity (STAG) Research Centre brings together world-leading academics from three research groups – Theoretical Particle Physics, Astronomy and General Relativity – to explore problems ranging from the ultimate building blocks of matter to dynamics over the longest distances in the universe and actively engage with high-profile international experiments and observational facilities.

Researchers from STAG are:

• working together to improve our understanding of the extreme environments generated by black holes and neutron stars, which power some of the most spectacular phenomena in the Universe such as pulsars;

• exploring the identity of dark matter and dark energy, which make up 95 per cent of the Universe;

• actively involved in bridging the gap between quantum theory and gravity by exploiting their expertise in string theory and holography (a technique which enables three-dimensional images to be made).

Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees will be giving the keynote lecture to an audience of local school and college students, University staff and students, and interested members of the general public as part of a special event to celebrate the launch of the STAG Research Centre on Monday 23 September at 2.30pm at the University’s Turner Sims.

Lord Rees will be discussing the cosmic history and the key boundaries of our universe and he will explain how these are being pinned down by experimental data, especially that from the European Space Agency’s Planck Spacecraft.

STAG Deputy Director, Professor Kostas Skenderis, says: “We are honoured to have such an esteemed keynote speaker for the launch of STAG. Lord Rees has had a long and prestigious career in the field of astronomy and was President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010. His stimulating lecture is the first in what we hope will be a series of high profile research seminars organised by STAG and will ensure that the launch of the new Centre is a truly memorable occasion.”

To find out more about the STAG Research Centre and the launch event, please visit

Nick Evans, a Professor of Theoretical High Energy Physics and member of the STAG research centre, ponders the limits of human knowledge.