Professor Nial Tanvir

Professor in Physics and Astronomy


When conducting his research, Professor Nial Tanvir looks further – and further back – than almost anyone else on the planet. As an expert on gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most luminous and violent explosions known to science, he has led teams which have found some of the most distant objects in the universe, providing valuable clues as to what was happening just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.  

In 2013 Professor Tanvir showed that collisions between ultra-dense neutron stars are accompanied by not just a GRB but also a slower kind of explosion called a kilonova. This led in 2017 to his co-discovery of a kilonova created by the first neutron star merger to be detected by its gravitational wave emissions, thus opening up the new field of multi-messenger astronomy. In 2019 the Royal Astronomical Society awarded him its prestigious Herschel Medal for investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics.  

Alongside his research, Professor Tanvir is very active in the field of public outreach, taking his passion for deep space to schools, colleges and public events, as well as contributing to radio and TV coverage of the subject. 


My early research was devoted primarily to improving the extragalactic distance scale, culminating in an estimate of the Hubble Constant (H0=69+/-8 km/s/Mpc) in 1995 based on HST observations of Cepheids in the galaxy M96, which is in very good agreement with modern determinations. While at Cambridge I broadened my interests, working on both nearby and distant galaxy evolution studies. In 1997 I began research on gamma-ray bursts, and this subject has been the increasing focus of my subsequent endeavours, although I continue to make contributions to the study of galaxy evolution, particularly Local Group galaxies.


"A `kilonova' associated with the short-duration gamma-ray burst GRB130603B", Tanvir N R et al., Nature, Volume 500, Issue 7464, pp. 547-549 (2013), 10.1038/nature12505.

"Star Formation in the Early Universe: Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg", Tanvir N R et al., The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 754, Issue 1, article id. 46, 13 pp. (2012), 10.1088/0004-637X/754/1/46.

"A gamma-ray burst at a redshift of z~8.2", Tanvir N R et al., Nature, Volume 461, Issue 7268, pp. 1254-1257 (2009), 10.1038/nature08459.

"Long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae have different environments", Fruchter A S et al., Nature, Volume 441, Issue 7092, pp. 463-468 (2006), 10.1038/nature04787.

"A new population of extended, luminous star clusters in the halo of M31", Huxor A P, Tanvir N R et al., Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 360, Issue 3, pp. 1007-1012 (2005), 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2005.09086.x.

"A very energetic supernova associated with the gamma-ray burst of 29 March 2003", Hjorth J et al., Nature, Volume 423, Issue 6942, pp. 847-850 (2003), 10.1038/nature01750.

"A giant stream of metal-rich stars in the halo of the galaxy M31", Ibata R et al., Nature, Volume 412, Issue 6842, pp. 49-52 (2001), 10.1038/35083506.

"Detection of intergalactic red-giant-branch stars in the Virgo cluster", Ferguson H C, Tanvir N R, von Hippel T, Nature, vol. 391,, p. 461 (1998), 10.1038/35087.

"An unusual supernova in the error box of the γ-ray burst of 25 April 1998", Galama T J et al., Nature, Volume 395, Issue 6703, pp. 670-672 (1998), 10.1038/27150.

"Transient optical emission from the error box of the gamma-ray burst of 28 February 1997", van Paradijs J et al., Nature, Volume 386, Issue 6626, pp. 686-689 (1997), 10.1038/386686a0.


  • Waves and Quanta, PA1140
  • Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Particles, PA2260
  • Cosmology, PA3622
  • Undergraduate tutorials and projects
  • Postgraduate Journal Club

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