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New project expands horizon of USQ space exploration

New project expands horizon of USQ space exploration

Image: USQ astronomer Associate Professor Jonti Horner.

ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) funding has enabled the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), in collaboration with The University of New South Wales and The University of Sydney, to start building a dedicated multi-telescope facility at Mount Kent Observatory on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

On the other side of the world, in Arizona, USA, a four-telescope array known as MINERVA (MINiature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array) scours the northern hemisphere skies for new worlds among the stars. Now Australian astronomers at these universities, with International partners Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and the University of Pennsylvania, are building a complementary MINERVA-Australis facility.

USQ astronomer, Associate Professor Jonti Horner, who is a participant on the LIEF project, said MINERVA was designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zone of bright, nearby stars. “Initially we’ll have a spectrograph and a couple of telescopes. Once complete, it’ll be a collection of six very versatile telescopes, allowing large amounts of time to be devoted to observing stars,” he said. “It will give us an incredible instrument to carry out the search for exoplanets. We’ll be able to point it at the stars every night that it’s clear, looking for tiny wobbles or winks in the light to identify orbiting planets.”

Media issued by the University of Southern Queensland.

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