Cabecera departamento

Stellar Astrophysics Group



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Research lines


         We are the Stellar Astrophysics Group at the Departament of Physics, System Engineering and Signal Theory (yes, that's the official name). In spite of its small size, our group carries out vigorous research in a number of fields of modern Astronomy, mostly related to the formation and evolution of high-mass star. We also dedicate a strong effort to communicating our results to the society at large and  presenting Astronomy to the general public, on many occasions in collaboration with other research groups at the University of Alicante that work in different fields of Astronomy or Astrophysics.

  • Web page for MY Cam (not yet ready).

Al5 optical
The open cluster Alicante 5 looks like a small scattering of stars in the top image, taken with visible filters at the  NTT telescope (La Silla Observatory, Chile).
The lower image, however, (a false-colour composite of mid-infrared frames obtained with the space telescope Spitzer), demonstrates that the visible stars are only a small part of a large population of very young stars that is starting to emerge from the cloud where it has just formed.

Al5 mid

Left, Amparo Marco seen through the volume phase holographic (VPH) grism that disperses the light inside AAOmega, the most powerful (for the time being) multi-object spectrograph (highest multiplexing capability), mounted on the Anglo-Australian Telescope, at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (photographed by Ángel López Sánchez). Below, a panoramic view of the instrument, as it sits in a dark room within the telescope building. Light from more than 300 stars, collected by the main mirror, reaches the spectrograph through a fibre bundle (inside the tube seen to the left of the image). Our team is using this instrument to explore star formation in the inner regions of the Milky Way and to characterise the properties of red supergiants.


Al6 mid ir
This picture is a false-colour composite of three mid-infrared images obtained with the Spitzer space telescope. They show a bubble in the interstellar medium known as N37. The bright red colours mark the position of warm dust, and the bubble is the empty cavity within it. N37 has been created by the winds of stars in the very young open cluster Alicante 6, not yet completely emerged from its parental cloud. In our work, we show that star formation in this region has very likely been triggered by a nearby very luminous star, with spectral type O7II, located near the bottom right corner of the image (this is a very hot star and so can hardly be seen in the mid infrared). 
In the science fiction TV series Falling Skies, the alien race known as the Volm are said to be living in the open cluster Alicante 8.

Alicante 8 is a cluster candidate, signposted by a number of red supergiants, that we found in the Inner Galaxy a few years ago. Details on this asterism can be found in "Another cluster of red supergiants close to RSGC1" (Negueruela et al. 2010).

                      8 Near-IR JHK-band colour composite of the field around Alicante 8, constructed from UKIDSS data with artefacts due to saturation artificially removed and colour enhancement.

Team members

Javier Alonso Santiago

Graduate student

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Ricardo Dorda Laforet

Postdoctoral researcher

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Javier Lorenzo Espinosa

 Associate researcher

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Amparo Marco Tobarra

Associate Professor (Applied Physics)

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Ignacio Negueruela Díez

Associate Professor (Astronomy and Astrophysics)

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Hugo Tabernero Guzmán

Research fellow (Juan de la Cierva)

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Main research lines

Astronomers study Stellar Evolution to understand the processes that lead to changes in the observed properties of stars. These changes are connected to physical processes coming into action at some point in the lives of the stars. As stars live unbelievably long lives, we cannot see a given star experiment changes. We infer their life paths by observing large numbers of stars in different evolutionary phases. 

Our work concentrates on the study of high-mass stars, those much more massive than the Sun. These objects start their lives as main-sequence OB stars and later become supergiants, going through different spectral types. Some of them will end their lives as red supergiants, the largest stars in the Universe, while others will become Wolf-Rayet stars, throwing away most of their mantles and enriching the interstellar medium. All of them will die in a supernova explosion. The Universe presents us with natural laboratories to carry out our work: open clusters and binary systems. By studying them, we have obtained significant advances in this field over the past few years.

High-mass stars
  • Fundamental properties. High-mass eclipsing binaries.
  • Stellar evolution: supergiants, Wolf-Rayet stars, interacting binaries, etc
High-mass X-ray binaries
  • Search for optical counterparts
  • Orbital parameters
  • Characterisation of populations
Young open clusters
  • Astrophysical parameters
  • Star forming regions
  • Young high-mass stars
  • Young massive clusters
The Be phenomenon
  • Be stars in the field and in clusters
  • Be/X-ray binaries

Galactic structure

  • Highly reddened clusters of red supergiants
  • Open clusters in the Perseus arm
  • Open clusters in the Galactic Anticentre

Former members: Francesc Vilardell Sallés (now at the Institut de Ciències de l'Espai), Carlos González Fernández (now at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University), and Maria Monguió i Montells (now at the University of Hertfordshire).

Completed PhD theses:


In the modern world, basic science is seldom funded if it does not go hand in hand with technology development. Astronomers obtain funding for their research by applying for (always scarce) public money in open competition with their colleagues. These conditions lead to the creation of very large collaborations and the involvement in international projects. Our team participates in the following large projects:

The IACOB project, led by Sergio Simón Díaz (IAC), is a large library of high-resolution spectra of high-mass stars with early spectral types. Its extension, IACOB-sweG, coordinated from Alicante, expands the library to the spectral range covered by the spectrograph on board the Gaia satellite.
Gaia We belong to the Spanish network for Gaia (REG) since its creation. We are also members of the European network GREAT. These networks have been created by Spanish and European astronomers to exploit the wonderful observations provided by the Gaia,satellite, one of the most ambitious projects of the  European Space Agency. The REG network is coordinated by Prof. Francesca Figueras (University of Barcelona) and is formed by more than 100 professional astronomers and graduate students.
gaia image
Miradas is a third-generation instrument currently being built for the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC), the largest telescope in the world. It is a powerful intermediate/high-resolution multi-object spectrograph operating in the infrared range. It is being developed at the University of Florida by a team directed by Prof. Stephen Eikenberry. We have been part of the science team for Miradas since its inception. Indeed, the instrument design is optimised to carry out four reference science cases, one of which is the study of obscured high-mass stars in the Milky Way.
logo miradas
WEAVE is a new instrument currently being built for the William Herschel Telescope (WHT). When in operation, WEAVE will be for some time the most powerful multi-object spectrograph ever built. It will be able to take intermediate-resolution spectra of almost 1000 stars over the whole optical range in one shot. WEAVE is a major European project, supported by a large science consortium. Our team is part of the science team, and we are directly involved in the conception and design of one of the big spectroscopic surveys that is planned: Stellar, Circumstellar and Interstellar Physics (SCIP), led by Prof. Janet Drew, from the University of Hertfordshire.
logo weave
Gaia-ESO The Gaia-ESO survey is an ambitious project coming close to completion at the European Southern Observatory. It carries out a major spectroscopic survey of the Milky Way, in support of the Gaia mission. Led by Prof. Gerry Gilmore from the Institute of Astronomy (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Sofia Randich from the Arcetri Observatory, it includes over 250 confirmed active Co-I participants from several institutes. Our team is involved in this project since its initial design, and Dr. Negueruela is part of its Steering Committee.
GES logo
The CAFÉ-BEANS project, coordinated from Alicante in collaboration with Dr. Jesús Maíz Apellániz (CAB) is an international effort aiming at a better characterisation of the binary properties of high-mass stars. It has been collecting spectra of a very large sample of stars for over five years with the CAFÉ spectrograph operated at the 2.2 m telecope of the Observatorio de Calar Alto.

WSO-UV We are also part of the Spanish science working group for the space telescope WSO-UV, an international project led by the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Spanish contribution is led by Prof. Ana I. Gómez de Castro, from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. WSO
Consolider-Ingenio GTC We were also active participators in Consolider Ingenio 2010-GTC, a major science project organised around the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC), and funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN) within their CONSOLIDER programme. The aim of this project was preparing Spanish science teams to obtain first-class science with data observed by GTC, the biggest telescope in the world, located at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, in La Palma. The collaboration was led by Dr. José Miguel Rodríguez Espinosa, from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. GTC image

Previous research grants
Formation and evolution of high-mass stars in the Milky Way (AYA2012-39364-C02-02), High-mass stars in the infrared (AYA2010-21697-C05-05), Multiplicity and evolution in high-mass stars (AYA2008-06166-C03-03), High-mass: birth and evolution (AYA2005-00095), Populations of high-mass stars in Local Group galaxies (AYA2002-00814)


Astronomy days
Together with other astronomers in our department, we organise, at least once a year, a cycle of public talks on different topics related to Astronomy. The talks are given by prestigious astronomers and financed by the University. Most years, the Astronomy days happen at the end of October or beginning of November. The talks are advertised through the university boards, local astronomical associations and other means.

Related links

Astronomy and Astrophysics
Professional journal publishing research papers and funded by several European countries.
Calar Alto
Calar Alto astronomical observatory.
Isaac Newton Group
An organisation operating several telescopes in La Palma (currently, a consortium between the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain).
European Southern Observatory
A European organisation, running observatories in Chile. Its telescopes are generally acknowledged to operate the best astronomical instrumentation in the World.
Integral ISOC
Science operation centre for the high-energy space observatory INTEGRAL.
European Space Agency.
USA national space agency.
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
The most important Spanish research institute in Astronomy, located in Tenerife.
Spanish Astronomical Society, a professional association for astronomers.

Maintained by the Stellar Astrophysics Group
Last update: 5th November 2016
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