A generation ago, humans had yet to find a single planet orbiting another sun-like star outside our solar system, yet today we know of thousands of other planetary systems and a diversity of worlds.
From planet discoveries to an on-going fascination with the search for life beyond Earth, interest in astronomy and space remains strong as researchers reveal ever more about our universe.
Helping lead the way in Australia’s role in the discovery and characterisation of worlds beyond Earth are researchers at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), who will join a stellar international line up of speakers to share insights at the upcoming Festival of Astronomy & Space.
With the expansion of Mount Kent Observatory to include the MINERVA-Australis telescope array, USQ has a key role to play for the upcoming NASA space mission Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and is delighted to be welcoming NASA’s Dr Douglas Hudgins to the Festival.
Astrophysics Group astronomer Professor Brad Carter said Dr Hudgins would be discussing some of the expected findings from TESS while giving an overview of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program.
“The new MINERVA-Australis research facility will place Australian astronomy at the forefront of the international quest to understand nearby planetary systems by supporting NASA’s TESS mission, so the Festival is a wonderful opportunity for USQ and the wider community to hear directly from Dr Hudgins about what has been learned about other planetary systems from NASA research, and what we may expect to find with TESS,” Professor Carter said.
“Along with Dr Hudgins, we have a host of leading international and Australian astronomers, all of whom will give audiences fascinating insights into the wonders of the universe, from moon mysteries to the search for habitable planets outside our solar system.
“The Festival will celebrate astronomy and space in all its forms, from the basics of the night sky to some of the universe’s deepest mysteries, with a series of free talks open to all.”
Professor Tamara Davis – one of Australia’s researchers from the University of Queensland, will begin the Festival with a talk on the subject on cosmology and dark matter with a presentation entitled “The Dark Side of the Universe”.
Professor Fred Watson, an Australian Astronomical Observatory astronomer who many may know from regular radio and TV gigs including as resident ‘space expert’ on Channel 10’s The Project, will share a history of our understanding of the Moon from the earliest times through to the space age.
A keynote speaker for the Festival is one of world’s experts in the study of the atmospheres of planets around stars other than the Sun, Professor Giovanna Tinetti from the University College London, who will deliver talks for the public in Toowoomba and at the Brisbane Planetarium.
Also taking part are USQ astronomers Professor Brad Carter, Associate Professor Jonathan Horner, Dr Carolyn Brown and PhD student Belinda Nicholson.
The Festival of Astronomy & Space, coinciding with World Space Week, will include free public talks in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Springfield from October 3 to 10 2017.