Research

The Department of Astrophysics and Optics at UNSW conducts a wide range of research programs in observational and theoretical astrophysics as well as instrumentation and site testing. Current research falls into 4 main areas: cosmology, extrasolar planets, star formation and molecular clouds, and Antarctic astronomy and instrumentation. Click Here for a list of current Honours, Masters, or PhD projects.

Cosmology and Fundamental Constants

At UNSW, astrophysical observations are being used to test new ideas in fundamental physics and cosmology. Current research programs include cosmological variability of Fundamental Constants, cosmology of the Lyman-alpha forest, gravitational lensing, and dark matter.

Contact: Prof John Webb


Exoplanetary & Planetary Science


The Exoplanetary Science Group: Prof. Tinney's group uses both Doppler Wobble techniques to detect planets orbiting other stars, adaptive-optics coronography to image companions to stars, and direct imaging techniques to seek unbound (i.e. free-floating) planets in nearby stars clusters and as companions to nearby young stars. The group makes use of some of the largest telescopes around - the Anglo-Australian Telescope, the ESO Very Large Telescope, the Magellan telescopes, and the Gemini Telescopes.

Contact: Prof Chris Tinney


The Planetary Atmospheres Group: studies the atmospheres (and occasionally surfaces and interiors) of solar system objects such as Venus, Mars, and Titan using remote sensing and atmospheric modelling. We also search for extrasolar planets via radial velocity and polarimetry.

Contact: A/Prof Jeremy Bailey


The APT Group: The APT group searches for transiting exoplanets using the 0.5-m Automated Patrol Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory. The new AAO-built CCD camera currently being installed is expected to increase our efficiency 10-fold.

Contact: Prof John Webb or Prof Michael Ashley


Antarctic Astronomy and Instrumentation

The department conducts major programs with instrumentation and site testing and is pioneering the development of astronomy in Antarctica. The group has built a range of instrumentation for large telescopes, particularly in the infrared. Current projects include:


PLATO: The PLATeau Observatory, is a self-contained automated platform for conducting year-round experiments from the Antarctic plateau.

PILOT: The Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope is a proposed 2-m optical telescope for Dome C, Antarctica.

LAPCAT: The proposed Large Antarctic Plateau Clear Aperture Telescope will search for exoplanets from Antarctica via direct imaging.

Contact: Prof John Storey, Prof Michael Burton, Prof Michael Ashley

Star Formation and the Interstellar Medium

The Astrophysics department has a strong research program studying star formation and the interstellar medium. Combining optical, infrared, millimetre and radio telescopes the group is undertaking a diverse range of projects exploring the environment in which star formation occurs in our Galaxy. Projects aim at investigating excitation of molecular clouds, massive star formation, the interaction of supernova remnants with molecular clouds, and the centre of the galaxy.

Contact: Dr. Maria Cunningham, Prof Michael Burton


Departmental Telescopes

The department operates the Automated Patrol Telescope and the ROTSE-IIIa Telescope.

The Mopra millimetre-wave telescope is no longer operated by UNSW, but we are allotted a significant amount of time on the telescope.


Collaborating Institutions

Researchers at UNSW collaborate closely with scientists at the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO, the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, and other universities and research centres around the world.

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