Nina Hatch – Galaxies, Chocolate & Outreach (18/03/2013)

18th March 2013

Dr Nina Hatch, from the school of Physics & Astronomy, researches the lives of the most massive galaxies in the universe. As well as this, she searches far back in the universe’s history for the galaxies that have eventually come to be part of the gravitationally bound clusters of galaxies we observe in the local universe.

Today Nina joins Hena and Carl (Jr.) in the studio for a chat about her research and the science outreach projects Nina is involved with. These important projects, such as the astronomy department’s portable inflatable planetarium (The Inflativerse) spread awareness of both physics and astronomy and plant that seed in both the old and young that could eventually lead to a career in the field.

Galaxy Types

In 1926, Edwin Hubble noted that there were several different types of galaxy observable in the night sky. From ball-shaped elliptical galaxies, disky spiral galaxies to half-way inbetween lenticular galaxies. As well as these, there were also irregularly shaped galaxies that didn’t fit into any other category.


It is erroneously thought that this ‘sequence’ was intended to suggest an evolutionary path from ellipticals (early types) through lenticulars and finishing with a spiral galaxy. This is not the case and, in fact, it is now known that there are more spiral and irregular galaxies in the early universe than there are today!

Under gravity, galaxies come together and are gravitationally bound in objects called groups and clusters. These are the largest gravitationally bound objects in the universe. Our Milky Way is part of a local group, not a cluster and this is because clusters are larger than groups, although there is no sharp dividing line between the two. Typically, clusters contain hundreds of galaxies!


The VLTAs a professional astronomer, Nina often travels to telescopes to carry out her research. Failing this, Nina’s research is carried out by the lovely people that run the telescopes. To do this, a proposal has to be written
which proves to a panel of other astronomers that your research is both feasible and worthwhile.

Telescopes are often situated in amazing places and if any one gets the opportunity to visit, Nina says take that chance! There are many exciting telescopes already out there and many more planned such as the Very Large Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescope! The astronomers leave the names to the marketing department…

The Inflativerse!

Nina helped create The Inflativerse project which travels out to local secondary and primary schools to entertain and enthuse the next generation.

The Inflativerse

Science in the News