Category Archives: Astronews

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…


US College students visit USQ and produce an exoplanet paper!

Over the last few months a group of US College students (Daniel Johns, Connor Marti, Madison Huff, Jacob McCann) visiting USQ for the northern summer have worked with a US team led by A/Prof Rob Wittenmyer to produce the following paper now available on

Revised Exoplanet Radii and Habitability Using Gaia Data Release 2
Daniel Johns, Connor Marti, Madison Huff, Jacob MCann, Robert A. Wittenmyer, 
Jonathan Horner, Duncan J. Wright

Welcome to Dr Brett Addison

The new USQ Centre for Astrophysics welcome Dr Brett Addison as a Research Fellow (Astrophysics) working on Mt Kent Observatory’s MINERVA-Australis exoplanet search and characterization project led by USQ’s A/Prof Rob Wittenmyer. Brett comes to us from Mississippi State University where worked as a postdoctoral research astronomer. You can check out Brett’s website at


First light for MINERVA-Australis

Mt Kent Observatory’s MINERVA-Australis exoplanet search and characterization facility has achieved first light with its CCD imager and photometer and spectrograph, with early tests indicating it meets or exceeds the required specifications. The MINERVA-Australis project is led by A/Prof Rob Wittenmyer with key team members including Dr Duncan Wright, Dr Matthew Mengel and Dr Brett Addison. Further updates will be provided in coming months.