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Atomic physics

Atomic physics plays a key role in astrophysics as astronomers' only information about a particular object comes through the light that it emits, and this light arises through atomic transitions. The group was involved in the Iron Project and is a member of the UK APAP Network , funded by STFC and led by Nigel Badnell, a former DAMTP PhD student of Alan Burgess. The goal of this project is to compute, on a large scale, electron excitation cross sections and rates for various processes to model astrophysical and laboratory spectra, using the most reliable procedures currently available. APAP has become the main atomic data provider for research in fusion (see ADAS), and astrophysics (see, e.g. the modelling codes APEC, ATOMDB, CHIANTI, CLOUDY, ION, XSTAR, XSPEC, MOCASSIN, just to mention a few).


Atomic databases

This group has played a key role in developing and maintaining CHIANTI, a Database and IDL modelling codes for Astrophysical Emission Line Spectroscopy. CHIANTI is now the reference atomic database in stellar coronal physics, with over 3000 direct citations. It is universally used in solar physics, but now widely-used also to interpret astrophysical plasma, to estimate radiative losses in hydrodynamical or MHD modelling, and for forward modelling. CHIANTI received the 2010 RAS group achievement award for geophysics.

We have also been part of a large EU FP7 project called Virtual Atomic and Molecular Data Centre (VAMDC) , the main source of atomic and molecular data for academic and industrial communities.


Solar spectroscopy

The main astronomical body that we study is the Sun and, in particular, the hot multi-million degrees atmosphere of the Sun called the corona. The corona of the quiet Sun emits primarily in the EUV and UV , with a few key emission lines in the visible and near-infrared. The active sun emits primarily in the X-rays and EUV.

Dr. Mason has been involved in the science exploitation of spectroscopic instruments on-board many past missions, including Skylab, the OSO satellites, SMM, Yohkoh, and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SoHO) .

Dr Del Zanna has been mainly involved since 1995 in the science exploitation of the SoHO Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS), providing an in-flight radiometric calibration for the community, and several novel results on coronal holes, coronal hole plumes, active regions loops and flares. He has also published results based on several previous missions and sounding rockets.

Hinode EIS 

Drs. Mason and Del Zanna are co-I of the Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) aboard the Japanese/UK/USA mission HINODE, formerly known as SOLAR-B. As part of the Hinode/EIS team, we received in 2015 the RAS group achievement award. Our group has published many novel results based on EIS observations.


Drs. Mason and Del Zanna are associated scientists of the IRIS mission.

Solar Orbiter 

Del Zanna is Associated scientist on METIS (coronograph), and co-I of EUI (EUV imager), and SPICE (VUV spectrometer).


Del Zanna and Mason are co-I of MaGIXS which has flown in 2021 on a sounding rocket, providing the first high-resolution slit spectroscopy in the X-rays (6-25 A).