Jacco van Loon

Jacco van Loon

Astronomer, Keele University

I studied at the University of Amsterdam and spent two years at the European Southern Observatory before graduating with a philosopher's degree. I then spent another two years as a researcher at Cambridge University before becoming a lecturer at Keele University.

My research concentrates on "Stellar Ecology": the interplay between stars and their environment. Stars form from dense clouds of gas and dust, most of which was previously burnt inside stars and ejected by them as they died. This mass-loss process can happen in different ways, via winds or explosions. Much of my research is aimed at understanding how these mechanisms work. In order to better understand the impact of the ejecta on the future of their host galaxies, I investigate the small-scale structure of the diffuse interstellar medium.

My work is observationally driven, using the largest facilities in space (e.g., the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope) and on the ground (ESO Very Large Telescope, radio telescopes, et cetera), and my Ph.D. students have gone on several observing trips to Chile and Australia. But I am interested also in developing theoretical frameworks for interpreting these observations.

In 2007 I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, to work on the neighbouring spiral galaxy Messier 33 together with an Iranian Ph.D. student. This has led to a new technique to determine the star formation histories in nearby galaxies. My future work will probably take me to more distant galaxies, to understand how the Universe evolved to the way it appears to us now. Indeed, I have started to work more on the effect that supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies have on how these galaxies evolve.

I am also intrigued by the human connection with space - the Philosophy of Science, Reality and Mind, and I am Faculty of Natural Sciences Director for Public Engagement and Director of Keele Observatory.

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