• Academic
Staff Record

Sarah Brough


02 9385 5470


Head of Astrophysics Group


  • 2005: PhD Astronomy, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
  • 1999: MPhys, University of Liverpool, UK


Research Interests: 

I am an observational astronomer and lead a research group that tackles a broad range of outstanding questions in Galaxy Evolution, focussing mainly on optical observations of nearby galaxies.

The core of my research is understanding how galaxies change with time (evolve), and how that change depends on the environment they are found in. I am particularly interested in the changes experienced by the most massive galaxies in the Universe which represent the most extreme result of galaxy formation.

I have been a key member of three major Australian-led surveys of galaxies including the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) and SAMI surveys which have taken their observations with the 4-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope situated near Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia. My PhD student Giulia Santucci is undertaking research with the SAMI survey. Most recently in her published paper "The SAMI Galaxy Survey: Stellar Population Gradients of Central Galaxies" Giulia has found that no significant difference between the stellar population gradients of galaxies that are at the centre of the outskitrts of dark matter haloes when the galaxies stellar masses are taken into account.

I am now leading Australia into a new astronomical survey of the southern sky. The new Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) will be transformational, opening up novel avenues of investigation across all of astronomy, including galaxy evolution. 

The hierarchical structure formation paradigm requires that galaxies form and evolve through the merging and accretion of earlier generations of galaxies. But the observational details of those interactions are still not understood.  The interactions in a galaxy’s past leave faint traces, visible in the form of diffuse, low surface brightness structures of stars: tidal features and intracluster light. However, these features are hundreds of times fainter than the dark night-sky making them difficult to detect, and so these faint markers of galaxy evolution have remained largely unexplored.  

LSST will commence in 2023 and survey the whole southern sky until 2033 achieving unprecedented depths in 6-optical bands. LSST will reveal low surface brightness light over large regions of the sky for the very first time. This will reveal the features that will answer the question of how galaxy interactions drive galaxy evolution for the first time and so provide real insight into the hierarchical structure formation paradigm that underpins galaxy evolution. I lead the LSST Galaxies Science Collaboration Low Surface Brightness Working Group on this subject (https://sites.google.com/view/lsstgsc/working-groups/low-surface-brightness-science) in which we are currently preparing to undertake this research through four preparatory Challenges. My team (Dr Miriea Montes, and Dr Cristina Martinez-Lombilla) are using Hyper-Suprime Cam observations from the Subaru Telescope to gain insights into this subject and prepare for LSST.

I talk more about my research in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVOLe1qYXOY and here too: https://youtu.be/-TNyu5-nEo8 .

Are you an undergraduate who would like to join my team? Check out my publications linked below, and what we are currently working on (latest news: Why Massive Galaxies Don't Dance in Crowds). If you are interested please send an email advising your astronomy research experience and attaching your CV and transcript.

Honours, Awards and Memberships: 

  • Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (2015-2020)
  • 2019 Dean of Science’s Staff Excellence Award for Collaboration and Partnership
  • 2019 Outstanding Research Supervisor Award
  • Member of Australian Academy of Science's National Committee for Astronomy (2020 - present)
  • Member of CSIRO's Australia Telescope Steering Committee (2020 - present)
  • Member of UNSW Science Data Science Hub Executive Committee (2020 - present)
  • Member of 4MOST Hemispheric Survey (4HS) Executive Committee (2020 - present)
  • Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, UNSW Science (2020)
  • Australian Science Lead for Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST; 2018 - present)
  • Chair of LSST Galaxies Low Surface Brightness Working Group (2018 - present)
  • Member of Astronomy Australia Ltd (AAL) Science Advisory Committee (2018 - 2019)
  • Research Director, School of Physics, UNSW (2018-2020)
  • Australian representative on Giant Magellan Telescope Science Advisory Committee (2017-2019)
  • Chair of Steering Committee for the Astronomical Society of Australia's Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Astronomy (IDEA) Chapter (2015-2017)
  • Member of the International Astronomical Union
  • Fellow of the Astronomical Society of Australia

Selected Publications: 

See my list of publications on ADS