Queensland looks to the skies this week

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ), based in the Darling Downs region of Australia, is set to host the Festival of Astronomy from August 16 to18. 

This event will be held during National Science Week, the country’s annual science celebration. The Festival of Astronomy will feature five free events, held at different locations, all hosting leaders in the field.

The main event will take place on August 17 between 6 and 9pm, at the Allison Dickson Lecture Theatre on the USQ campus in Toowoomba, and will be followed by star-gazing. The keynote speakers include Jessie Christiansen and Duane Hamacher. 

Christiansen is a celebrated researcher from the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology, who assisted in identifying several of the 3774 exoplanets discovered as part of NASA’s Kepler Mission. She will discuss some of the most intriguing of these discoveries, and will talk about NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission, which is looking at discovering “new Earths and Super-Earths”. 

Hamacher, from the Monash University Indigenous Studies Centre in Melbourne, researches indigenous astronomy. His talk will address the significant contributions of Australia’s first peoples to the knowledge to the discipline, and how these are passed down through the generations.

There are also workshops running at several locations during the festival. Ipswich Youth Astronomy Workshop will take place on August 16 at USQ Springfield Campus, and the Toowoomba Youth Astronomy Workshop will happen on August 17 at USQ Toowoomba Campus. Christiansen will speak to students from years seven to 12 about space exploration and the journey that led her to it. 

The Build-A-Planet Workshop at the USQ Toowoomba Campus is aimed at children from kindergarten to year two. Jake Clark from USQ will introduce them to the wonders of space and teach them about the interiors and exteriors of planets. 

The final event is the Planetarium Astronomy Seminar on August 18, at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium located in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens. Christensen and astrophysicist Annette Lee from the St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, US, will present talks. Lee is a researcher, advocate, and the Director of the Native Skywatchers initiative, which seeks to revive the role and knowledge of First Nations in the study of the heavens and Earth.    

Registration for all events is limited and is filling up fast.

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