Skip to main content

Rachel Tunnicliffe

I am a PhD student in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group at the University of Warwick. My supervisor is Dr Andrew Levan.

My main area of interest is Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs). This phenomenon describes an extremely luminous, short flash of gamma rays (typically from milliseconds to hundreds of seconds) often followed by emission, termed the afterglow, detectable in the X-ray, optical and radio wavelengths, visible for longer periods of time.

Discovered serendipitously in the 1960s by the Vela satellites, originally designed to monitor for nuclear tests, the first observations were finally published by Klebesadel, Strong, and Olsen in 1973. Use of the GRB dedicated Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) on Nasa's Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO) revealed that the population of GRBs is actually comprised of at least two separate precursors characterised by their spectral hardness and duration, termed short and long GRBs (see Kouveliotou et al, 1993). From detections of the first afterglows by the BeppoSAX telescope (long GRBs, see Costa et al, 1997) and by the High Energy Transient Explorer 2 (HETE-II, short GRBs) it was discovered that GRBs are extragalactic events and can, in fact, be seen at cosmological distances spanning far into the history of the Universe.

My work mainly involves searching for and investigating the host galaxies of short gamma ray bursts (SGRBs). This is based upon the optical follow up of short GRBs detected by the Swift telescope using many ground based facilities including the Gemini observatory (consisting of two telescopes: one in Cerro Paranal, Chile and the other on Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii) and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Cerro Paranal, Chile.

Publications I have been involved in include:

  • "The unusual X-ray emission of the short Swift GRB 090515: evidence for the formation of a magnetar?", Rowlison et al., 2010, MNRAS, 409, 531
  • "An extremely luminous panchromatic outburst from the nucleus of a distant galaxy", Levan et al., 2011, Science, 333, 6039
  • "The Afterglow and ULIRG Host Galaxy of the Dark Short GRB 120804A", Berger et al. 2013, ApJ, 765, 121
  • "Demographics of the Galaxies Hosting Short-duration Gamma-Ray Bursts", Fong et al. 2013, ApJ, 769, 56
  • "A `kilonova' associated with the short-duration gamma-ray burst GRB 130603B", Tanvir et al. 2013, Nature, 500, 547

Write to:

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

Contact details:

E-Mail: r.l.tunnicliffe AT