Skip to main content
Toggle navigation
News & Events

Funding win to boost USQ’s search for new planets

Man standing
USQ Associate Professor Rob Wittenmyer will lead a research project, dedicated to ground-based characterisation of newly discovered planets.
USQ astronomy researchers have received a welcome boost in their search for planets outside our Solar System, thanks to a major funding win.

The project, which will shed light and further uncover extrasolar planets, was awarded $280,000 in funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery scheme.

Research being conducted out of USQ’s Mount Kent Observatory, currently being upgraded to accommodate the MINERVA-Australis telescope array, will provide ground-based observations to support NASA’s upcoming Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.

These upgrades will allow USQ to serve as the leading southern hemisphere site for the mission, which is set to discover tens of thousands of new exoplanets around nearby bright stars over the coming decade.

Project team lead and USQ Astrophysics Associate Professor Rob Wittenmyer said the funding would allow for important intensive follow-up observations of newly discovered planets.

“NASA’s TESS mission will discover thousands of these planets so this project will advance our understanding of planet formation via intensive, dedicated ground-based characterisation of these new planets,” Associate Professor Rob Wittenmyer said.

“Current and future spacecraft missions are discovering thousands of planetary systems which are vastly different from our own Solar System. Our research will advance our understanding of how planets are formed by conducting the necessary intensive follow-up observations using our Mount Kent Observatory.”

The project team also includes USQ Associate Professor Jonti Horner and international collaborators Associate Professor Jason Wright from the University of California and Pennsylvania State University, and Dr Thomas Beatty from Pennsylvania State University.