People

Dr Phil Evans

Research Associate

School/Department: Physics & Astronomy, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 5059

Email: pae9@leicester.ac.uk

Profile

I am X-ray astronomer, and I lead the University's involvement in the highly successful Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. Swift is a highly-versatile satellite, originally designed to study Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs: the most powerful explosions in the universe) but now used to observe all kinds of transient and variable astronomical phenomena. 

The X-ray camera on Swift was built at Leicester, and I have served as a member of the UK Swift Science Data Centre since joining the university in 2006. I designed and built unique software tools to allow observers to accurate analyse X-ray data from Swift simply by filling in a form on a website, instead of having to learn the complexities of analysing data by hand, as had previously been necessary. These tools are still used more than 40 times every day, by scientists from around the globe. Following the retirement of Prof. Osborne, I took on leadership of the Leicester Swift team in 2021.

I also work on the ESA mission Athena, which will launch in 2034. Athena will have two cutting-edge instruments called XIFU and WFI; I am the Technical Lead for the WFI Instrument Science Centre. 


Research

My primary area of research is into transient astrophysical events, especially in the new field of so-called multi-messenger astronomy - a field of which he was one of the early members. Traditionally, astronomy and astrophysics is the science of detecting light from space, and studying it to learn about the nature of the cosmos and the physical laws of the universe. For most of human history, light is the only tool we have had to study space, the only messenger carrying information from the cosmos to Earth that we could measure.

Multi-messenger astronomy or astronomy beyond light (as I like to call it) takes advantage of new breakthrough technologies which have enabled astronomers to detect other messengers, such as neutrinos (very weakly interacting particles) and gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space time). These give new insights into extreme astrophysics in ways light cannot: it is like suddenly being able to hear and smell the cosmos, as well as see it.

I am also responsible for building various catalogues of X-ray sources seen by Swift, and am just finalising an exciting project to search for new transients in Swift data, in real time.


Publications

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My full publications list can be seen at: https://www.star.le.ac.uk/pae9/pub.html, or you can find it on ADS. My ORCiD is 0000-0002-8465-3353.

A selection of research highlights are:

  • Swift Follow-up Observations of Gravitational-wave and High-energy Neutrino Coincident Signals — Keivani A., et al., 2021, ApJ, 909, 126
  • 2SXPS: An Improved and Expanded Swift X-Ray Telescope Point-source Catalog — Evans P.A., et al. et al., 2020, ApJS, 247, 54
  • Multimessenger observations of a flaring blazar coincident with high-energy neutrino IceCube-170922A — Ice Cube Collaboration, et al., 2018, Science, 361, 1378
  • A Multimessenger Picture of the Flaring Blazar TXS 0506+056: implications for High-Energy Neutrino Emission and Cosmic Ray Acceleration — Keivani A., et al., 2018, ApJ, 864, 84
  • Swift and NuSTAR observations of GW170817: detection of a blue kilonova — Evans P.A., et al., 2017, Science, 358, 1565
  • Swift follow-up of gravitational wave triggers: results from the first aLIGO run and optimisation for the future — Evans P.A., et al., 2016, MNRAS, 462, 1591
  • Swift follow-up of the Gravitational Wave source GW150914 — Evans P.A., et al., 2016, MNRAS, 460, L40
  • Swift follow-up of IceCube triggers, and implications for the Advanced-LIGO era —Evans P.A., et al., 2015, MNRAS, 448, 2210 
  • Swift follow-up observations of candidate gravitational-wave transient events —Evans P.A., et al., 2012, ApJ, 203, 28
  • Methods and results of an automatic analysis of a complete sample of Swift-XRT observations of GRBs —Evans P.A., et al., 2009, MNRAS, 397, 1177

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