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Searching for Tatooine: the PAVO Planet Hunt


This project is one of the first to hunt for planets in orbit around double-star systems, and it will use a pioneering approach in advanced instrumentation to achieve an unprecedented sensitivity in revealing distant worlds.


Professor Peter Tuthill.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The new PAVO instruments, just brought online at the SUSI and CHARA arrays, have now achieved the highest sensitivity and resolution ever obtained. With this PhD project, you will develop a new astrometric interferometer mode for PAVO at the SUSI telescope which will probe nearby bright binary star systems for planetary companions. Double star systems have been largely overlooked in conventional planet hunts to date for which they are problematic, but our high precision methods exploit the properties of the binary to make the extremely high precision measurements needed to reveal the presence of planets. This challenging and ambitious project is among the key objectives for the facility. You will participate in the design and construction of advanced optical instrumentation, and then set the experiment in motion by leading an observational program targeting a handful of bright southern binary stars. Success in finding a planet in even one of these systems would be a signature result, commanding attention from the astronomical community worldwide.

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 652

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