Research Supervisor Connect

The Stellar Surface Imaging Project


Our powerful new PAVO optical instrument will be used to make the first ever detailed images of the actual surfaces of distant stars. In this project, you will target some of the most spectacular stellar performers displaying bizarre physics such as magnetic stars with huge dark patches, and rotationally/tidally distorted stars.


Professor Peter Tuthill.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The twin PAVO instruments (PAVO is the Southern constellation of the Peacock) have just been commissioned at the SUSI (NSW) and CHARA (California) arrays. These instruments now set the standard for sensitivity and resolution in optical interferometic imaging, for the first time enabling us to answer a question which countless generations must have dreamed about: “What would it look like if I could zoom up to see a distant star at close quarters?”.  The sunspots and prominences exhibited by our own sun may be quite tame in comparison with the fireworks displayed by many of the exotic stars in our galaxy. The surfaces of several classes of strongly magnetic star should show strong surface mottling, with spectacular patterns of light and dark regions criss-crossing the stellar disk. Still other stars are distorted from the normal circular disk by rotation rates approaching break-up, or by tidal effects from an extremely close binary companion star stretching the surface into an egg shape. New observations, for the first time enabled by the PAVO instruments, will open a unique new window into the exotic physics which governs such extreme astrophysical environments. In this project, you will learn about design of leading edge astronomical instrumentation, construct your own observing program and conduct observations at both the SUSI array in Narrabri and the CHARA array in California.

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.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 655

Other opportunities with Professor Peter Tuthill