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Galactic Paleontology with Metal Poor Stars


Metal-poor stars are fascinating relics coming to us across vast shores of time from the ancient cosmos. In this project, we will make the first ever detailed study of their basic properties: temperature, radius and mass.


Professor Peter Tuthill.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



Ultra metal-poor stars are the living fossils of the stellar kingdom. Although elements heavier than Helium only make up a tiny fraction of any star, they have a profound effect on the stellar structure.
Consequently stars born when the universe was substantially younger, before heavy elements were formed, should stand out from the crowd exhibiting dramatically different physical and thermal structure -- or so the theoretical models tell us. Because these fossil stars are rare and far from Earth, nobody has ever been able to examine one in detail. Until now. Your job in this project will put these stars under the microscope using the most powerful imaging arrays ever built: The Sydney University Stellar Interferometer and the CHARA array in Southern California. In making the first accurate measurements of the basic properties of metal-poor stars, you will determine whether these exotic objects are indeed as weird as theorists predict. The project then takes direct aim at one of the key questions in cosmology: the lithium abundance of very old stars is significantly lower than Big-Bang nucleosynthesis predicts. Where is the missing Lithium hiding, or is this a chink in the armour for Big-Bang cosmology?

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 653

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