Dr Ralph E. Spencer

Reader in Radio Astronomy in the School of Physics and Astronomy of The University of Manchester. My office is at the Jodrell Bank Observatory

My main astronomical research interests concern the evolution of extragalactic radio sources and the energetics, production and propagation of jets in both galactic and extragalactic objects.
Our observations in the 1980's and 90's discovered a class of extragalactic radio sources called "Compact Steep Spectrum sources". These objects are now known to be relatively young (10^6 years or less) and are an important stage in the evolution of powerful extended sources. Recent observations have concentrated on studies of the polarization properties and on weaker sources.
Currently most of my research time is spent on studying the jets from galactic X-ray binary stars and galactic transients with the aim of understanding how radio jets are formed. These objects often show apparent superluminal motion, indicating velocities in the jets of up to 0.98c, and are now called `Microquasars'
MERLIN observations in the autumn of 1997 of the archetypal microquasar GRS 1915+105 showed that the distance to this object was about 11 kpc (36000 light years. Another famous object which was the first microquasar to be discovered is SS433. The persistent X-ray binary and black-hole candidate Cygnus X-1 has also been found to have a radio jet on milliarc-second scales using the VLBA.
Much of my time is spent on technical development. This includes VLBI and wide band optical fibre linked interferometers including e-MERLIN and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA). See also a paper on fibres in radio astronomy.

I have given courses on astronomy, physics of the atmosphere, data analysis, image processing, physics of the interstellar medium and currently on Stars and Stellar Evolution. I was chairman of the undergraduate laboratory committee until August 2005 and on sabbatical leave 2005-2006.

Dr R. E. Spencer,
University of Manchester,
Jodrell Bank Observatory,
SK11 9DL,
  • E-mail: ralph.spencer@manchester.ac.uk
  • Office: +44 (0)1477-572606
  • Fax: +44 (0)1477-571618
  • Home: +44 (0)1260-277217