Patrick Roche

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Patrick Roche

Professor of Physics

I am an astronomer with particular interests in astronomical instrumentation, telescopes and new observational techniques, and with research programmes studying the nature and composition of cosmic dust, the interstellar medium and star formation processes. The picture below shows magnetic field vectors in the central parsec of the Milky Way galaxy traced by polarised 12 µm emission from warm dust grains obtained with Canaricam on the GTC.


At the end of 2017, I completed a 3-year term as the President of ESO Council and an 8 year term as a member of the ALMA Board. Since then, I have served as a member of the ESO and ALMA visiting committees. The European Southern Observatory operates and develops world-leading astronomical facilities in the Atacama desert in Chile, including the telescopes of the Paranal and La Silla observatories and the APEX sub millimetre dish. ESO is a partner in the Atacama Large Millimetre/Sub-millimetre Array, together with North America and East Asia in cooperation with the republic of Chile. ALMA consists of 66 antennae operated at an altitude of 5000m and has opened up the cold universe to detailed study at unprecedented sensitivity. The ESO Extremely Large Telescope, a 39-m diameter optical/infrared telescope, which will be the most powerful facility of its kind, is currently under construction on Cerro Armazones, about 20km from Paranal, and is scheduled to have its first light on the sky in 2025.

I am a tutorial fellow at Hertford College.

Information on the Observational Techniques component of the Astrophysics graduate course given in October 2020, and links to useful resources, may be obtained here

PDFs of the slides from graduate lectures on the Interstellar Medium from 2013 can be obtained here.

Handouts for undergraduate lectures in the 4th year astrophysics option, C1, on Atomic Processes and the ISM from 2016 can be found here.

I tutor undergraduate students in physics courses at Hertford College.

I have served on or chaired numerous instrumentation and telescope review panels. I served on the ESO Science and Technology Committee for 6 years from the UK accession to the European Southern Observatory in 2002, followed by a further 6 year term as one of the two UK delegates to ESO Council. I completed my term as President of the ESO Council, and as a member of the ALMA Board at the end of 2017.

I was involved with the Gemini 8-m telescopes from the inception of the project in 1990 and was the UK Gemini Project scientist from 1996-2002. During that period, the UK Gemini support group was established at Oxford. The Gemini Observatory operates twin 8-m telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. The UK withdrew from the Gemini partnership at the end of 2012.

At Oxford, I have led the development of two infrared cameras: WHIRCAM which was delivered to the William Herschel Telescope in La Palma in 1995 and UFTI, the fast-track imager that was delivered to the UK Infrared Telescope in Hawaii in 1998. An article describing UFTI was published in the PPARC Frontiers magazine, while some of the images obtained can be found in the UKIRT image gallery. One of the programmes conducted with UFTI is a census of low mass objects in the Orion nebula, which revealed a number of objects in the planetary mass regime, and which was selected as astronomy picture of the day in March 2000. I have obtained subsarcsecond spatially resolved mid-infrared spectra of a number of nearby active galaxy nuclei. These have been published in MNRAS and text files of the spectra are available here.

A list of refereed publications can be found here and a list of all publications here