The Institute of Astronomy (IoA) came into being in 1972 by the amalgamation of three institutions which had developed on the site. These were the Cambridge University Observatory which was established in 1823, the Solar Physics Observatory (1912) and the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy (1967).
The IoA is a department of the University of Cambridge and is engaged in teaching and research in the fields of theoretical and observational Astronomy. A wide class of theoretical problems are studied, ranging from models of quasars and of the evolution of the universe, through theories of the formation and evolution of galaxies and stars, X-ray sources and black holes.
Much observational work centres around the use by staff of large telescopes abroad and in space to study quasars, galaxies and the chemical constitution of stars. A programme on the velocities of stars is conducted using the 36-inch telescope in Cambridge. Instrumentation development is also an important area of activity, involving charge coupled devices and detector arrays for rapid recording of very faint light and the design and construction of novel spectrographs.
The Institute comprises about 88 postdoctoral staff, 63 graduate students and 26 support staff. There are close links with the Cavendish Astrophysics Group (formerly the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory) as well as with the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, all of which are conducting complementary research programmes here in Cambridge.