Author Archives: Brad Carter

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.

The Planet We Could Not Imagine

A Public Presentation by Professor Stephen Kane, University of California: Riverside
Date: 30 August 2019
Time: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Venue: Toowoomba – H102 (Allison Dickson Lecture Theatre)

The current search for potentially habitable planets relies heavily upon what we have learned from objects within our solar system, where we can obtain direct measurements of surface conditions. As well as understanding habitable environments, such as Earth, it is imperative that we study where the boundaries of habitability may lie and the kinds of planetary processes that result in hostile environments. In this talk I will describe lessons learned from the Earth-size planets in our solar system and the issues faced in trying to model exoplanets that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

USQ information link:

Zoom videoconference link (Zoom software client should install if needed):
To join from PC, Mac, iOS or Android:

ARC grant success for USQ astrophysics

USQ astrophysics staff are investigators on new Australian Research Council grants for 2019 as follows:

A dedicated telescope to study the interiors of stars from their oscillations. LE190100036, $159,000 Led by USQ’s Professor Robert Wittenmyer

A robotic telescope leveraging global science from Veloce. LE190100050, $500,000.
Led by Macquarie University’s Chris Schwab and including USQ’s Brad Carter and Rob Wittenmyer

For more details see:


NASA’s TESS telescope has discovered two new Earth-like planets – and USQ is involved

As noted in the following article, NASA’s TESS telescope has discovered two new Earth-like planets – a “super-Earth” and a “hot Earth” less than 60 light years away:

USQ astronomers are on the relevant discovery papers:


Festival of Astronomy wraps up for 2018

2018’s USQ Festival of Astronomy attracted many hundreds of people to talks at Toowoomba, Brisbane and Gold Coast venues, and dozens of junior astronomers to a “build a planet” workshop in Toowoomba.

The Festival was a notable success thanks to the efforts of USQ’s Dr Carolyn Brown, Karlee Kuzma, Jake Clark, Matthew Mengel, Duncan Wright, Jonti Horner and others, as well as our eminent speakers Dr Jessie Christiansen (NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, USA), Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash Uni. and USQ), and A/Prof Annette Lee (St. Cloud State University, USA).

As for 2019 details are yet to be advised but we do note that July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon…