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Andrew Levan

Recent highlights:

Oct 2023: Heavy elements detected in a JWST spectrum of a compact object merger - link to NASA press release

July 2023: A new route to stellar death, dynamical formation of a compact object merger in a galaxy nucleus - NOIRLab release

March 2023: The brightest gamma-ray burst of all time - NASA release

About me:

I am a Professor in the Department of Astrophysics at Radboud University Nijmegen, and also an honorary professor at the University of Warwick.

Primary Research Interests:

I am an astronomer with an interest in how stars end their lives. I study their ends in explosions, collapses, mergers and disruptions via the bright emission they often exhibit across and sometimes beyond the electromagnetic spectrum. Through these studies, I seek to understand the pathways that lead to these stellar deaths, probe the extreme physics at play, and use the outcomes as bright lighthouses shining to the distant Universe. My current work and some past highlights to which I have contributed include.

  1. The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave source.
  2. The identification of the progenitors of both long- and short-duration gamma-ray bursts.
  3. Through items 1 and 2, the discovery of the first clear site for the likely production of many of the most massive elements in the periodic table, e.g. gold, platinum, uranium etc.
  4. The discovery of the most distant gamma-ray bursts, when discovered the most distant objects known in the Universe.
  5. The location of relativistic tidal disruption, where stars are disrupted by supermassive black holes and their material then accelerated to near the speed of light.
  6. In-depth studies of the environments (for example the host galaxies) of many classes of transients, including gamma-ray bursts, luminous supernovae and tidal disruption events.
My work is predominantly, but not exclusively, observational in nature, and is underpinned by observational programmes with many of the world's premier observatories including the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope, the Gemini Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and others.
I also play a substantial role in several collaborations. In particular, I chair the Executive Committee for the ENGRAVE consortium, and am responsible for the day-to-day operations of this 250-person collaboration which undertakes observations of gravitational wave sources. I am heavily involved in the Stargate project for the follow-up of gamma-ray bursts at the European Southern Observatory.
On a broader scale, I am currently the coordinator of NOVA (Nederlands Onderzoekschool Voor Astronomie) network 3 which unites ~100 Dutch astronomers undertaking research in Extreme Astrophysics and sit on its Instrumentation Steering Committee. I also led the construction of the 2020-2030 roadmap for Extreme Astrophysics in Europe under the Astronet programme.

Selected publications can be found below, while a full publication list can be found here.


At Radboud I am currently teaching an undergraduate course on Newtonian Cosmology, a Masters course on the Foundations of Gravitational Wave Astrophysics, and a Physics-wide course on academic writing. I have previously also developed courses on Extreme Astrophysics and General Relativity.

At Warwick I taught and developed a number of courses, these include "The Distant Universe", "Cosmology", "Global Warming" as well as contributions to undergraduate tutorials and laboratories. In addition, with Prof David Mond I led the development of the university's first large scale interdisciplinary course, "The challenges of climate change", involving staff and students from more than ten academic departments. This has now been incorporated into its offerings by the (new) Department of Sustainable Development.

More, somewhat outdate material regarding my teaching can be found here.

Outreach, engagement and widening participation:

I am heavily involved in engagement activities across a wide range of groups, from primary schools to adult learners to astronomy societies. I delivered the Bruker Warwick Christmas lecture entitled "The Biggest Bangs" in 2015, and a further Christmas lecture "Building a Ladder to the Stars" in 2019. More information about this can be found here.

At Warwick I was the Physics lead for Widening Participation - the target of increasing participation in University to those from backgrounds that are underrepresented. As part of this, I lead a program to address the impact of targeted interventions on the perceptions and actions of students on the boundary between primary and secondary school.

In Nijmegen, I continue to give frequent talks to schools, mostly at the 16-18 level (where language isn't an issue). I was a founding member of NAEIC, the Dutch Astronomy Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Selected recent publications (those where I am in the first 3 authors, see link on right for full list):


JWST detection of heavy neutron capture elements in a compact object merger

A.J. Levan et al. 2023, Nature, in press (online early)

A long-duration gamma-ray burst of dynamical origin from the nucleus of an ancient galaxy

A.J. Levan et al. 2023 Nature Astronomy, 7, 976

The First JWST Spectrum of a GRB Afterglow: No Bright Supernova in Observations of the Brightest GRB of all Time, GRB 221009A

A.J. Levan et al. 2023 ApJ 946 28

The Galactic neutron star population II - Systemic velocities and merger locations of binary neutron stars

N. Gaspari, A. Levan, A. Chrimes, G. Nelemans, 2023 MNRAS, in press

AT2023fhn (the Finch): a luminous fast blue optical transient at a large offset from its host galaxy

A. Chrimes, P. Jonker, A. Levan et al. 2024 MNRAS 527 47

Late-time HST UV and optical observations of AT 2018cow: extracting a cow from its background

A. Inkenhaag, P. Jonker, A. Levan et al. 2023 MNRAS 525 4042

Searching for ejected supernova companions in the era of precise proper motion and radial velocity measurements

A.A. Chrimes, A.J. Levan et al. 2023 MNRAS 522 2029

The Fast X-Ray Transient XRT 210423 and Its Host Galaxy

D. Eappachen, P. Jonker, A. Levan et al. 2023 ApJ 948 91


A kilonova following a long-duration gamma-ray burst at 350 Mpc

J. Rastinejad, B. Gompertz, A. Levan et al. 2022 Nature 612 223

The fall of CSS100217: a tidal disruption-induced low state in an apparently hostless active galactic nucleus

G. Cannizzaro, A.J. Levan, S. Van Velzen, G. Brown 2022 MNRAS 516 529

Where are the magnetar binary companions? Candidates from a comparison with binary population synthesis predictions

A.A. Chrimes, A.J. Levan et al. 2022 MNRAS 513 3550

New candidates for magnetar counterparts from a deep search with the Hubble Space Telescope

A.A. Chrimes, A.J. Levan et al. 2022 MNRAS 512 6093

The Fast Radio Burst-emitting Magnetar SGR 1935+2154-Proper Motion and Variability from Long-term Hubble Space Telescope Monitoring

J.D. Lyman, A.J. Levan et al. 2022 ApJ 926 121


The Galactic neutron star population - I. An extragalactic view of the Milky Way and the implications for fast radio bursts

A.A. Chrimes, A.J. Levan, P.J. Groot, J.D. Lyman, G. Nelemans, 2021 MNRAS 508 1929


Electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational wave sources at the Very Large Telescope

A.J. Levan & P.G. Jonker, Nature Reviews Physics, 2 455

Observational constraints on the optical and near-infrared emission from the neutron star-black hole binary merger candidate S190814bv

Ackley et al (alphabetical author list), 2020 A&A 643 113

GRB 170817A as a Refreshed Shock Afterglow Viewed Off-axis

G.P. Lamb, A.J. Levan, N.R. Tanvir, 2020 ApJ 899 105

A Search for Neutron Star-Black Hole Binary Mergers in the Short Gamma-Ray Burst Population

B.P. Gompertz, A.J. Levan, N.R. Tanvir 2020 ApJ 895 58

Polarimetry of relativistic tidal disruption event Swift J2058+0516

K. Wiersema, A. Higgins, A. Levan et al. 2020 MNRAS 491 1771


The case for a high-redshift origin of GRB 100205A

A.A. Chrimes, A.J. Levan et al. 2019 MNRAS 488 902

Short GRB 160821B: A Reverse Shock, a Refreshed Shock, and a Well-sampled Kilonova

G.P. Lamb, N.R. Tanvir, A.J. Levan et al. 2019 ApJ 883 48

Chandra and Hubble Space Telescope observations of dark gamma-ray bursts and their host galaxies

A.A. Chrimes, A.J. Levan et al. 2019 MNRAS 486 3105

The Optical Afterglow of GW170817 at One Year Post-merger

G.P. Lamb, J.D. Lyman, A.J. Levan et al. 2019 ApJ 870 15


The Properties of GRB 120923A at a Spectroscopic Redshift of z= 7.8

N.R. Tanvir, T. Laskar, A.J. Levan et al. 2018 ApJ 865 107

The optical afterglow of the short gamma-ray burst associated with GW170817

J.D. Lyman, G.P. Lamb, A.J. Levan et al. 2018 Nature Astronomy, 2 751

Investigating a population of infrared-bright gamma-ray burst host galaxies

A.A. Chrimes, E.R. Stanway, A.J. Levan et al. 2018 MNRAS 478 2

The Diversity of Kilonova Emission in Short Gamma-Ray Bursts

B. Gompertz, A.J. Levan et al. 2018 ApJ 860 62


The Environment of the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817

A.J. Levan et al. 2017 ApJ 848 28

The Emergence of a Lanthanide-rich Kilonova Following the Merger of Two Neutron Stars

N.R. Tanvir, A.J. Levan et al. 2017 ApJ 848 27

The Distance to NGC 4993: The Host Galaxy of the Gravitational-wave Event GW170817

J. Hjorth, A.J. Levan et al. 2017 ApJ 848 31

The Diversity of Kilonova Emission in Short Gamma-Ray Bursts

B. Gompertz, A.J. Levan et al. 2017 ApJ submitted

Late-time observations of the relativistic tidal disruption flare candidate Swift J1112.2-8238

G.C. Brown, A.J. Levan et al. 2017 MNRAS 472 4469

The properties of GRB 120923A at a spectroscopic redshift of z=7.8

N.R. Tanvir, T. Laskar, A.J. Levan et al. 2017 ApJ submitted

Radio observations confirm young stellar populations in local analogues to z ˜ 5 Lyman break galaxies

S. Greiss, E.R. Stanway, A.J. Levan, L. Davies, J.J. Eldridge 2017 MNRAS 470 489

The host galaxies and explosion sites of long-duration gamma ray bursts: Hubble Space Telescope near-infrared imaging

J.D. Lyman, A.J. Levan et al. 2017 MNRAS 467 1795


Gamma-Ray Burst Progenitors

A.J. Levan et al. 2016 Space Science Reviews 202 33

Late Time Multi-wavelength Observations of Swift J1644+5734: A Luminous Optical/IR Bump and Quiescent X-Ray Emission.

A. J. Levan. et al. 2016 ApJ 819 51

Hubble Space Telescope observations of the host galaxies and environments of calcium-rich supernovae.

J.D. Lyman, A.J. Levan. et al. 2016 MNRAS 458 1758

A Hubble Space Telescope survey of the host galaxies of Superluminous Supernovae.

C.R. Angus, A.J. Levan et al. 2016 MNRAS 458 84

Detection of Three Gamma-ray Burst Host Galaxies at z ˜ 6

J. McGuire, N.R. Tanvir, A.J. Levan et al. 2016 ApJ 825 135


Swift J1112.2-8238: a candidate relativistic tidal disruption flare.

G.C. Brown, A.J. Levan et al. 2015 MNRAS 452 4297

Swift discoveries of new populations of extremely long duration high energy transient.

A.J. Levan 2015 Journal of High Energy Astrophysics, 2015 7 44

A Multiwavelength Study of the Relativistic Tidal Disruption Candidate Swift J2058.4+0516 at Late Times.

D.J. Pasham, S.B. Cenko, A.J. Levan 2015 ApJ 805 68

GRB 080517: a local, low-luminosity gamma-ray burst in a dusty galaxy at z = 0.09.

E.R. Stanway, A.J. Levan et al. 2015 MNRAS 446 3911

A Detection of Molecular Gas Emission in the Host Galaxy of GRB 080517.

E.R. Stanway, A.J. Levan et al. 2015 ApJ 789 7

Detailed afterglow modelling and host galaxy properties of the dark GRB 111215A

A.J. van der Horst, A.J. Levan et al. 2015 MNRAS 446 4116


The progenitors of calcium rich transients are not formed in situ.

Joe Lyman, Andrew Levan, Ross Church, Melvyn Davies, Nial Tanvir, 2014 MNRAS, in press

Hubble Space Telescope Observations of the Afterglow, Supernova and Host Galaxy Associated with the Extremely bright GRB 130427A.
A.J. Levan et al. 2014 ApJ 792 115

Radio observations of GRB host galaxies
E.R. Stanway, A.J. Levan & L. Davies, 2014 MNRAS, in press

A new population of ultra-long duration gamma-ray bursts
Andrew Levan et al. 2014 ApJ 781 13

On the nature of hostless short GRBs
R.L. Tunnicliffe, A.J. Levan et al. 2014 MNRAS 437 1495


A kilonova associated with the short GRB 130603B
Nial Tanvir, Andrew Levan, Andrew Fruchter, Jens Hjorth, Rebekah Hounsell, Klaas Wiersema, Rachel Tunnicliffe, 2013 Nature 500 547

Superluminous X-Rays from a Superluminous Supernova

A.J. Levan et al. 2013 ApJ 771 136

A Population of Massive, Luminous Galaxies Hosting Heavily Dust-obscured Gamma-Ray Bursts: Implications for the Use of GRBs as Tracers of Cosmic Star Formation

D.A. Perley, A.J. Levan et al. 2013 ApJ 778 128

The Afterglow and ULIRG Host Galaxy of the Dark Short GRB 120804A
Edo Berger, Ashley Zauderer, Andrew Levan et al. 2013 ApJ, 765 121


The properties of long gamma-ray bursts in massive compact binaries
Ross Church, Chunglee Kim, Andrew Levan and Melvyn Davies, 2012 MNRAS 425 470

Star Formation in the Early Universe: Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg
N.R. Tanvir, A.J. Levan et al., 2012 ApJ 754 46

Polarimetry of the transient relativistic jet of GRB 110328/Swift J164449.3+573451
K. Wiersema, A.J. van der Horst, A.J. Levan et al. 2012 MNRAS 421 1942

Swift J2058.4+0516: Discovery of a Possible Second Relativistic Tidal Disruption Flare?
S.B. Cenko et al., 2012 ApJ 753 47

An extremely luminous panchromatic outburst from the nucleus of a distant galaxy
A.J. Levan et al. 2011, Science, 333 199

A relativistic jetted outburst from a massive black hole fed by a tidally disrupted star
J.S. Bloom et al. 2011, Science, 333 202

On the origin of black hole spin in high-mass black hole binaries: Cygnus X-1
M. Axelsson, R. Church, M.B. Davies, A.J. Levan, F. Ryde. 2011, MNRAS 412 2260

Discovery of the afterglow and host galaxy of the low redshift short GRB 080905A
A. Rowlinson, K. Wiersema, A.J. Levan et al. 2010, MNRAS 408 383

Discovery of a new soft gamma-repeater SGR J1833-0832
E. Gogus, G. Cusumano, A.J. Levan et al. 2010, ApJ 718 331

The host galaxies of core collapse supernovae and gamma-ray bursts
K. Svensson, A.J. Levan, N.R. Tanvir, A.S. Fruchter, L.G. Strolger, 2010 MNRAS 405 57

Do Wolf Rayet stars have similar locations in hosts as type Ib/c supernovae and gamma-ray bursts
G. Leloudas, J. Sollerman, A.J. Levan, J. Fynbo, D. Malesani, J. Maund 2010, A&A 518 29

A gamma-ray burst at redshift 8.2
N.R. Tanvir, D.B. Fox, A.J. Levan et al. 2009 Nature 461 1254

Low resolution spectroscopy of gamma-ray burst optical afterglows: Biases in the Swift sample and characterization of the absorbers
J. Fynbo et al. 2009 ApJS 185 526

Late time observations of GRB 080319B: jet break, host galaxy and accompanying supernova
N.R. Tanvir, E. Rol, A.J. Levan et al. 2008, ApJ, in press

SCP 06F6: A carbon rich transient at redshift 0.14
B. Gaensicke, A. Levan, T. Marsh, P. Wheatley . 2009, ApJ, 697 129

Broandband observations of the naked eye gamma-ray burst 080319B
Racusin, J.L. et al. 2008 Nature, 455 183

New Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the counterparts to six ultraluminous X-ray sources
T.P. Roberts, A.J. Levan, M.R. Goad, MNRAS 387 73

The extreme red afterglow of GRB 060923A: Distance or Dust?
N.R. Tanvir, A.J. Levan, E. Rol, R. Starling, J. Gorosabel, R. S. Priddey, D. Maelsani, P. Jakobsson, P. O'Brien, A. Jaunsen, J. Hjorth, J. Fynbo, A. Melandri, A. Gomboc, B. Milvang Jensen, A. Fruchter, M. Jarvis, C.A. Fernandes, T. Wold, MNRAS, in press

The `DODO' survey - I. Limits on ultra-cool substellar and planetary-mass companions to van Maanen's star (vMa2)
M.R. Burleigh, F. Clarke, E. Hogan, C. Brinkworth, P. Bergeron, P. Darfur, P. Dobbie, A.J. Levan, S. Hodgkin, D. Hoard, S. Wachter, 2008, MNRAS 386 5

On the nature of the short duration GRB 050906
A.J. Levan, N.R. Tanvir, P. Jakobsson, R. Chapman, J. Hjorth, R.S. Priddey, J.P.U. Fynbo, K. Hurley, B.L. Jensen, R. Johnson, J. Gorosabel, A.J. Castro-Tirado, M.J. Jarvis, D. Watson, K. Wiersema, MNRAS, in press

A case of mistaken identify? GRB 060912 and the nature of the long short GRB divide
A.J. Levan, P. Jakobsson, C. Hurkett, N.R. Tanvir, J. Gorosabel, P. Vreeswijk, E. Rol, R. Chapman, N. Gehrels, P.T. O'Brien, J. P. Osborne, R.S. Priddey, C. Kouveliotou, R. Starling, D. Vanden Berk, K. Wiersema, MNRAS, in press

Progenitors of Long Gamma-Ray Bursts
Melvyn B. Davies, Andrew J. Levan, Josefin Larsson, Andrew R. King, Andrew S. Fruchter

A new constraint on gamma-ray burst progenitor mass
Josefin Larsson, Andrew Levan, Melvyn Davies and Andrew Fruchter, MNRAS, 376 1285

Neutron star binaries and long duration gamma-ray bursts
Andrew Levan, Melvyn Davies and Andrew King 2006, MNRAS, 372 1351

The faint afterglow and host galaxy of the short-hard GRB 060121
A.J. Levan, N.R. Tanvir, A.S. Fruchter, E. Rol, J.P.U. Fynbo, J. Hjorth, G. Williams, E. Bergeron, D. Bersier, M. Bremer, T. Grav, P. Jakobsson, K. Nilsson, E. Olszewski, R.S. Priddey, D. Rafferty, J. Rhoads, 2006, ApJ Letters 648 9

An optical supernova associated with the X-ray Flash 060218
E. Pian, P. Mazzali, N. Masetti, P. Ferrero, S. Klose, E. Palazzi, E. Ramirez-Ruiz, S. Woosley, C. Kouveliotou, J. Deng, A. Filippenkp, R. Foley, J. Fynbo, D. Kann, W. Li, J. Hjorth, K. Nomoto, F. Patat, D. Sauer, J. Sollerman, P.M. Vreeswijk, E. Guenther, A. Levan, P. O'Brien, N. Tanvir, R. Wijers, C. Dumas, O. Hainaut, D.S. Wong, D. Baade, L. Wang, L. Amati, E. Cappellaro, A. Castro-Tirado S. Ellison, F. Frontera, A. Fruchter, J. Greiner, K. Kawabata, C. Ledoux, K. Maeda, P. Moller, L. Nicastro, E. Rol, R. Starling, 2006 Nature 442 1011

The First Swift X-ray Flash: The Faint Afterglow of XRF 050215B
A.J. Levan, J.P. Osborne, N.R. Tanvir, K.L. Page, E. Rol, B. Zhang, M.R. Goad, P.T. O'Brien, R.S. Priddey, D. Bersier, D.N. Burrows, R. Chapman, A.S. Fruchter, P. Giommi, N. Gehrels, M.A. Hughes, S. Pak, C. Simpson, G. Tagliaferri, E. Vadoulaki, 2006 ApJ 648 1132

Infrared and Optical Observations of GRB 030115 and its Extremely Red Host galaxy: Implications for Dark Bursts
Andrew Levan, Andrew Fruchter, James Rhoads, Bahram Mobasher, Nial Tanvir, Javier Gorosabel, Evert Rol, Chryssa Kouveliotou, Ian Dell'Antonio, Michael Merrill, Eddie Bergeron, Jose Maria Castro Ceron, Nicola Masetti, Paul Vreeswijk, Angelo Antonelli, David Bersier, Alberto Castro-Tirado, Johan Fynbo, Peter Garnavich, Stephen Holland, Jens Hjorth, Peter Nugent, Elena Pian, Alain Smette, Bjarne Thomsen, Stephen Thorsett, Ralph Wijers 2006 ApJ 647 471

Long gamma-ray bursts and core collapse supernovae have different environments
A.S. Fruchter, A.J. Levan, L. Strolger, P.M. Vreeswijk, S. Thorsett, D. Bersier, I. Burud, J.M. Castro Ceron, A.J. Castro Tirado, C. Conselice, T. Dahlen, H. Ferguson, J. Fynbo, P.M. Garnavich, R. Gibbons, J. Gorosabel, T. Gull, J. Hjorth S. Holland, C. Kouveliotou, Z. Levay, M. Livio, M. Metzger, P. Nugent, L. Petro, E. Pian J. Rhoads, A. Riess, K. Sahu, A. Smette, N. Tanvir, R. Wijers, S. Woosley 2006 Nature 441 463

Short gamma-ray bursts in old populations: magnetars from white dwarf -- white dwarf mergers
Andrew Levan, Graham Wynn, Robert Chapman, Melvyn Davies, Andrew King, Robert Priddey, Nial Tanvir 2006 MNRAS 368 L1

All other publications via ADS

Press releases:

Earth safe from gamma-ray bursts - Royal Astronomical Society

Death of a star - PPARC

Swift detects most distant gamma-ray burst - PPARC

High redshift gamma-ray bursts - NASA

Andrew Levan


Write to:

Prof Andrew J. Levan,

Department of Astrophysics/IMAPP

Radboud University

P.O Box 0910

6500 GL


Department of Physics,
University of Warwick,
Coventry CV4 7AL





Publications via ADS