Monthly Archives: October 2019

Asteroid Prospecting Analysis and Classification (PhD scholarship, USQ)

Asteroid Prospecting Analysis and Classification (PhD scholarship, USQ)

Please note: The University of Southern Queensland is now offering a Research Training Program (RTP) funded PhD scholarship for 2020 . Eligible students must either hold an Australian passport or be permanent residents. As the studentship needs to be filled by the end of this calendar year, we encourage any suitable and potentially interested candidates to contact us as soon as possible, and by the end of November 2019 at the latest. Some project details are below.

Project Description

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) welcomes applications from domestic students aiming to complete a PhD in asteroid research under the joint supervision of Professor Jonti Horner (USQ), Dr Craig Lindley (CSIRO) and Professor Phil Bland (Curtin University).

The PhD forms part of a wider project that is funded by the CSIRO and USQ, in collaboration with the asteroid prospecting company NEORA, and will address early-stage prospecting for asteroids that may be strong candidates for the future exploitation of resources.

The focus will be on the use of large data sets to allow the remote characterisation of asteroids that have been observed by ground instruments or remotely from space platforms. Highly automated analytical methods will be devised to enable the determination of the size, shape, rotation rates, composition, family/classification and potential origins of asteroids.

Asteroid classification and taxonomies will be revisited using clustering and machine learning methods, and these methods will be used for the prediction of composition by cross-correlation with meteorite and mineral albedo and spectral data.

Compositional predictions will be validated by testing against a small dataset of well-characterised asteroids that have been closely observed as the targets of space mission flybys, orbiters and/or landers.

This project will involve collaboration with leading Australian and international researchers as well as space industry companies. This project will receive top-up research funding of AUD$30,000 for the successful candidate, and applications are to be submitted by the end of November 2019.

About USQ

In recent years USQ has developed a strong research profile in astronomical and space sciences. The successful student will be located within USQ’s Centre for Astrophysics, within the Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences. USQ has its own observational research facility – the Mt Kent Observatory – which supports a variety of projects, including providing follow-up for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, and multiple new projects are currently being developed on the growing observatory site.

The Centre for Astrophysics has grown to over 80 members, including 12 teaching and research staff, some 30 research students (mostly PhD students), and over 40 adjunct and honorary staff supporting research student supervision. USQ’s research activity in astronomical and space sciences is mainly focused on stellar astronomy and planetary systems, including multiple projects in Solar system research.

Entry requirements

The candidate needs to meet the standard requirements for domestic direct entry into the PhD program at USQ, and also have:

* Some indications of knowledge and experience in Earth and planetary sciences;
* Strong skills in computing and data science;
* A willingness to work in an interdisciplinary team composed of those in academic and industry roles.

Evidence of relevant previous peer-reviewed research output would be an advantage.


Enquiries should be directed to Professor Jonti Horner ( and include a CV.