About me


I’m a Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The University of Manchester and an Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics.

I am active in research – working mainly on multiwavelength observations and modelling of nova explosions – and undergraduate/ postgraduate teaching.

I also carry out a wide range of public engagement activities including regular appearances in the media and in events at Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement and elsewhere. 

One of my current major public engagement projects is the bluedot festival – a celebration of music, science, technology and the arts – of which I was a co-founder and to which I contribute science content and curation. I am also active in celebrating the heritage of Jodrell Bank including the construction of a major new gallery (part of the First Light project). I was also a co-author with Teresa Anderson of the proposal leading to Jodrell Bank Observatory being designated a World Heritage Site in 2019.

Away from work, I enjoy (mostly) watching Manchester United and working in our garden in the Peak District, a beautiful part of the world.

You can contact me by email on tim.obrien at manchester.ac.uk or by Twitter.

Personal information

Full nameTimothy John O’Brien
Education1969-70St Gabriel’s RC Primary School, Castleton
1970-75St Mary’s RC Primary School, Littleborough
1975-77St Wilfrid’s RC Middle School, Rochdale
1977-82Bishop Henshaw RC School, Rochdale
1982-85Queen Mary College, University of London
1985-88University of Manchester
Qualifications1985B.Sc. (Hons), First class, Physics with Astrophysics, University of London
1990Ph.D. in Astrophysics, University of Manchester, ‘A model for the remnant of the recurrent nova RS Ophiuchi (1985)’
Appointments1988-92Lecturer, University of Central Lancashire, School of Physics & Astronomy
1992-99Senior Lecturer/Reader, Liverpool John Moores University, School of Computing & Mathematical Sciences, Astrophysics Research Institute
1999-dateLecturer/Reader/Professor, University of Manchester, Department of Physics & Astronomy


My research concentrates on the study of exploding stars – mainly nova outbursts caused by thermonuclear explosions on the surface of white dwarfs in binary star systems.

Over the years, I’ve developed expertise in a wide range of astrophysical techniques. I started as a theorist, working for 3 years on a model of a single stellar explosion (without even considering where it might be in the sky in case I fancied a look myself). However, since then I’ve used large telescopes around the world and in space, working across the spectrum from radio waves to X-rays whilst also carrying out numerical simulations of the aftermath of the explosions using my own hydrodynamic codes. Recently I’ve developed an interest in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) using radio telescopes.

Here is a full list of my research papers from the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System.

Here is another list of my publications from Google Scholar.


My current (academic year 2022/23) undergraduate teaching comprises:

  • PHYS10101 Dynamics (lecture course)
  • PHYS10692 Physics of the solar system (lecture course)
  • UCIL20211 Are we alone? The search for extraterrestrial life (online lecture course)
  • PHYS10180 Year 1 Laboratory (Amplifiers & Feedback)
  • PHYS20180 Year 2 Laboratory (Digital Electronics & Kater’s Pendulum)