I am a Research Fellow at the University of Leeds' School of Physics and Astronomy. In my research, I focus on the formation of stars out of clouds of gas and dust, mostly in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. To do this, I make use of data coming from telescopes that operate from infrared to radio wavelengths, such as the wonderful Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM) 30-m telescope in southern Spain (pictured), and the 15-m James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii.

If you want to find out more, visit my research page.


This page contains a selected overview of some of the projects that I am most closely involved in. My full publication list can be found on the ADS, ORCID, or Google Scholar. My GitHub page can be found here.

GASTON: (Galactic Star Formation with NIKA2)

GASTON is a recently-completed 200-hour large programme at the IRAM 30-m telescope, which is using the new NIKA2 camera to conduct various observations of star-forming regions in the Milky Way. One third of the time has been devoted to an extremely deep survey of 2 square degrees of the Galactic plane, which I have been leading since the first observations were made in 2017. In GASTON, we are using the dual-wavelength imaging of NIKA2 at 1 and 2 mm to tackle questions related to star formation and the interstellar medium, and we are using the Galactic plane survey to study the formation of the most massive stars. We have published a paper based on the first results when we had 40% of the data in hand, and have since completed the observations towards. The analysis of the full Galactic plane survey is underway.

The image above is a six-colour composite of the GASTON Galactic plane survey field, centred on a Galactic longitude of 24 degrees, and on the Galactic midplane. The orange colour comes from the GASTON 1 mm imaging, and highlights regions of the densest gas, which may be actively forming star clusters, or in an early stage of star formation before the appearance of any new stars. The blue colours show regions of hot gas, in which bubbles (called HII - "H-two" - regions) are being blown in the interstellar medium by the intense ultraviolet radiation from newly-formed massive stars, or from the expanding shells of supernova remnants.

ALMA & NOEMA: Follow-up studies

I am currently leading observational programmes at the fantastic ALMA (pictured above - image credit: ESO/C. Malin) and NOEMA interferometer facilities.

With NOEMA, we have conducted follow-up observations at 3 mm of a sample of seven infrared-dark clouds (IRDCs), which are excellent targets for studying the very earliest stages of star formation. Such clouds are thought to be at a stage before the growing stellar clusters have managed to significantly heat their surrounding natal clouds, and so are dark at infrared wavelengths. These seven IRDCs are also covered by either the GASTON Galactic plane survey field, or from a pilot study using the NIKA pathfinder instrument which we published in 2018. These data have been combined with observations from the IRAM 30-m telescope to form extremely detailed observations of several key molecules, such as N2H+, HCO+, HCN, and C18O, which will allow us to trace the motion of gas at different densities and very low temperatures.

With ALMA, we are conducting an ambitious programme of follow-up observations of more than 1200 sources identified within GASTON. The observations in the 1 mm band will have much higher resolution than those of GASTON, allowing us to measure the locations and masses of dense gas fragments that give rise to individual star systems that reside within clouds across a wide range of masses. We will use these observations to help us understand where and in what order star clusters are populated with stars of different masses.

CHIMPS & CHIMPS2: The CO Heterodyne Inner Milky Way Plane Survey(s)

During my PhD I worked on combining a number of observational programmes carried out at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii into a single coherent data set that became known as CHIMPS. Cold molecular hydrogen makes up the vast majority of the mass of star-forming molecular clouds, but it is effectively invisible at the extremely cold (~10 K) temperatures required for such clouds to form. As the second most abundant molecule in the interstellar medium, carbon monoxide (CO) does emit radiation at these temperatures, and so is one of the best targets for studies of molecular clouds. The CHIMPS observations target rare isotopic forms of CO - 13CO and C18O - in the 3-2 rotational transition, which enable us to see deep into the interiors of clouds of gas where the densities required for star formation are reached.

The CHIMPS observations are particularly great at illustrating the spiral structure of our Galaxy, the evidence of which can be seen in the above position-velocity diagram. The bands of emission sweeping across velocities are the main spiral arms of the Milky Way. The emission of the CO lines happens at a very specific frequency, and so by measuring the change in frequency of the line, we measure the Doppler shift, and thereby determine the velocity of the gas along the line of sight.

With CHIMPS, we were able to study properties of clumps of molecular gas across the spiral arms of the Galaxy, enabling us to examine the effects that the structure of the Galaxy itself has upon star formation. The project was succeeded by CHIMPS2 at the JCMT, with many hundreds of additional hours granted so that we could expand the CHIMPS survey, and extend into the Galatic Centre, and into the Outer Galaxy too.


7th December 2021
JCMT Large Progams announced: CLOGS and MAJORS accepted

I'm delighted that the JCMT Time Allocation Committee has approved both of the CLOGS and MAJORS Large Progams, both being led by my good friend David Eden.

CLOGS (the CO Large Outer-Galaxy Survey) builds on the success of CHIMPS2 by significantly expanding the area of the Outer Galaxy survey in the 12CO (3-2) emission line, and will ultimately cover a longitude range of l=198 to 236 degrees. The observations will be used to expand our understanding of the conditions of molecular clouds and star formation in the sparse outer region of the Galaxy, which constitutes a substantially different environment to the comparably well-studied Inner Galaxy.

MAJORS (Massive, Active, JCMT-Observed Regions of Star Formation) will use the ‘Ū’ū instrument to observe a sample of star-forming molecular clouds in the (J=3-2) emission line of the HCN and HCO+ molecules. These molecules are thought to be tracers of the dense gas that is associated with star formation. The goal is to examine the role that dense gas plays in regulating the efficiency of star formation, and enabling a detailed comparison of how these emission lines can be interpreted in studies of other galaxies.


Dr Andrew J. Rigby
School of Physics and Astronomy
University of Leeds
United Kingdom
E: a.j.rigby @



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