Oxford offers a new night sky for Aussie planet hunter

Australian astronomer Dr Belinda Nicholson will have a new sky of constellations to search when she takes up a role at the second oldest university in the world – Oxford

Dr Nicholson is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) Centre for Astrophysics, her work focused on “teenage” stars.

“Stars, like we humans, go through stages of development from infancy, childhood, adolescences, and adulthood,” Dr Nicholson said.

“Not everyone hits puberty at the same time, and neither do stars: evolution happens at different times for different stars.

“My research looked into the magnetic activity, winds and planets of young, cool stars, especially abound these evolutionary shifts.”

She will continue to disentangle the cosmos as she launches into her new role as a post-doctoral researcher with University of Oxford’s Department of Physics and Exoplanet Group.

Dr Nicholson will keep strong ties with USQ, staying on as an adjunct research fellow and member of the USQ Astrophysics team and supporting the MINERVA-Australis observatory to examine exoplanets discovered by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

“I came to USQ from Melbourne for my PhD, as I was attracted to the University’s reputation in space sciences,” Dr Nicholson said.

“It was a no brainer for me. I wanted to be part of the amazing research underway here.”

Oxford will offer a new challenge for the astronomer, focusing more on planets than the burning suns they orbit.

“Exoplanet science is stellar physics at its heart, because all we can do is observe a star, its behaviour of the star and then infer the presence of a planet,” Dr Nicholson said. 

“I’m really excited to continue the hunt for a new alien worlds.”

Woman standing in front of telescope
Astronomer Dr Belinda Nicholson