Stephen Smartt is an astrophysicist at Queen’s University Belfast working on understanding exploding stars and supernovae. He has discovered the progenitor stars of supernovae and determined their mass and size before explosion. This has influenced theoretical models of stellar evolution of the most massive stars. He has led several major astronomical survey projects that repeatedly scan the sky searching for transient objects. Through these projects Stephen’s team have discovered and characterized many of the newly recognised “super-luminous” supernovae. The work indicates that the collapse of massive stars which produce rapidly spinning, strongly magnetic, neutron stars may be the cause.
Stephen has won several major awards including a PPARC Advanced fellowship, European Young Investigator award, Philip Leverhulme Prize in astronomy, European Research Council Advanced grant, and is an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy. He is passionate about engaging with the public about science, having given over 30 public and schools lectures, and is regular contributor to BBC radio, TV and online news stories.