Institute of Astronomy

Prospective Students

Application Portal Closed - PhD / MPhil


The application rounds for the PhD and MPhil courses at the Institute of Astronomy are now closed.  The Applicant Portal will open [for entry in October 2020] on 2 September 2019.  Informal enquiries can be sent to

The Institute of Astronomy offers the opportunity to study for three degrees:

In addition, the Institute of Astronomy offers undergraduate courses in Astrophysics as part of the Natural Sciences Tripos.

About the Institute

Located two kilometers to the west of the city centre and set in a pleasant environment of gardens and woodland, the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge hosts one of the largest concentrations of research astronomers in the United Kingdom with 18 tenured academic staff, 70 postdoctoral fellows and long-term visitors, and about 45 postgraduate students. The range of research interests pursued is very broad, covering many aspects of solar, stellar, galactic and extragalactic astronomy both observationally and theoretically. There is an active visitor programme which gives astronomers at the Institute the opportunity to interact and collaborate with colleagues from abroad; visits last from a few days to a whole year. The thriving scientific atmosphere is reflected in a busy programme of seminars and colloquia (there are talks on most days) given by international, national, and local astronomers.

Optical and infrared observers at the Institute have access, through competitive applications, to all of the United Kingdom's major ground-based facilities, including the European Southern Observatory VLT and ALMA telescopes in Chile,  as well as Chandra, XMM, Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer, Herschel, and other satellites. The Institute has an excellent record of success with applications for time on all of these facilities. In addition, there is an active involvement in research programmes which make use of the 10-m Keck and 6-m Magellan telescopes.

Space-based research is led by an active X-ray group which obtains access to data from all major X-ray satellites, especially the Chandra and XMM-Newton missions. The group studies extra-galactic objects, particularly clusters of galaxies, active galactic nuclei and the hard X-ray background. The Stellar populations group routinely use Hubble Space Telescope data, together with that from other satellites, for investigations of nearby galaxies. There is also major involvement in the ESA GAIA satellite, launch in November 2013, which will revolutionise studies of our own Milky Way galaxy. The study of the cosmic microwave background involves active participation in the analysis of data from the ESA Planck satellite.

The Instrumentation Group is engaged in the design and fabrication of innovative fast-track astronomical instruments; including Lucky Imaging cameras and instruments to image extra-solar planets.

The IoA also hosts the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit . The main activity of the group is in the design, practical implementation and operation of end-to-end data processing pipelines for wide field imaging systems, such as VISTA (the 4m infrared survey telescope sited close to the VLT in northern Chile), which generates ~400 Gbytes of data each night.

The majority of computing resource for research is provided by a large cluster of PC/Linux workstations. In addition, CASU and the X-ray and Theory groups also run substantial computing facilities. The entire site is connected by a fast network, ensuring rapid and convenient communication between computers, input and output devices and terminals.

The Institute has one of the leading astronomy libraries in the world. All major astronomical journals and periodicals are taken, along with most astronomical texts and monographs published. Access to material in related subjects is provided through the University's Rayleigh Physics Library, Main Copyright Library and the Scientific Periodicals Library.

Academic staff at the Institute give undergraduate lectures in both the Natural Sciences (NST) and Mathematical Tripos. Lectures in Part III (4th year) Astrophysics are given as an astrophysics section in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos, and graduate students from the Institute can attend any relevant courses.

Page last updated: 31 March 2017 at 12:18