Astronomy Festival to bring stars to Southern Queensland

From Ptolemy to Kepler, Neil Armstrong to the Mars rovers, outer space has fascinated and inspired humanity to scientific endeavour.
9 Aug 2018

Nestled on the Darling Downs, the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has galactic reach – working with groups such as NASA and the European Space Agency to hunt for planets outside the Solar System.

The work - including supporting NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission using the new MINERVA-Australis facility under construction at the University’s Mount Kent Observatory - has made USQ the perfect location to celebrate all things astronomical.

The Festival of Astronomy will take place over three days (August 16-18) during National Science Week.

USQ will host world-leading astronomers Dr Jessie Christiansen (NASA Exoplanet Science Institute – California Institute of Technology) and Dr Duane Hamacher (Indigenous Studies Centre - Monash University).

USQ Professor of Astrophysics Jonti Horner said the festival was a great way to bring the local community together to celebrate the wonder of the cosmos.

“It is absolutely thrilling to be able to host such amazing researchers and communicators, and to have them come and tell us all about their incredible research,” Professor Horner said.

“It is a great credit to USQ’s growing reputation that we are able to attract such fantastic speakers to our event!”

Dr Christiansen is one of the leading researchers working with NASA’s successful Kepler space observatory. She has been directly involved in the discovery of more than two-thirds of the 3,774 confirmed exoplanets detected to date (NASA Exoplanet Archive https://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu).

“We are now poised at an incredibly exciting time where we are moving from characterisation of individual exoplanets to studying their populations,” Dr Christiansen said.

“What we are finding over and over again is that nature has more imagination than we do! The number and configurations of solar systems we have found has, in fact, raised far more questions than it has answered.”

Dr Hamacher will talk about his research into Indigenous Australian astronomical and geological traditions and knowledge.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people developed a number of practical ways to observe the Sun, Moon and stars to inform navigation, calendars, predict weather, and inform Law and social structure,” he said.

“This knowledge contains a significant scientific component, which is encoded in oral traditions and material culture.”

In addition to the main event in Toowoomba on Friday, activities will include youth astronomy workshops in Ipswich and Toowoomba, a Build-A-Planet Workshop designed for Prep - Year 2, and a Brisbane Planetarium Astronomy Seminar on the grounds of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

What:Festival of Astronomy
When: 16 – 18 August 2018
Where: Various*

*Allison Dickson Lecture Theatre, USQ Toowoomba; Auditorium, USQ Springfield; Q172, USQ Toowoomba; Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, Toowong; T124, USQ Toowoomba.

Building and night sky