Science Lives: ‘I didn’t have a telescope as a kid, but I did like looking at stars’

Prof Turlough Downes, astrophysicist and associate professor in the school of mathematical sciences at Dublin City University

Dr Turlough Downes. Photograph: David Sleator

Dr Turlough Downes. Photograph: David Sleator

You are interested in how stars form – how do you look at that? “Stars form within really massive clouds of dust and plasma (a type of ionised gas) in space. We use the observations that telescopes make of these star-forming regions to help us build computer models of the typical characteristics of these clouds, such as their density, temperature, viscosity, turbulence and magnetic fields.

“Then we run computer simulations to see whether our theories of star formation work for these conditions. We need a lot of computing power for this, so my group uses European supercomputers to do that.”

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