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Stellar researcher joins University

Man standing up.
One of the world’s brightest astronomy researchers, Dr Simon Murphy, has joined the University of Southern Queensland.

One of the world’s brightest stars in astronomy research has joined the University of Southern Queensland.

Born and raised in a country far, far away, Dr Simon Murphy travelled more than 16,000 light years kilometres from his hometown in England to study the Australian sky.

“I moved here nine years ago after receiving my doctorate,” Dr Murphy said.

Dr Murphy eclipsed his University of Central Lancashire peers, graduating when he was just 24 years old – making him one of the institution’s youngest PhD students.

He held multiple postdoctoral positions at the University of Sydney before his latest mission saw him orbit to the University of Southern Queensland.

Here Dr Murphy is going boldly where no man has gone before, teaming up with experts from the University’s Centre for Astrophysics to find new planets beyond our solar system.

“These are called exoplanets, and as of this month, there have been more than 5000 discovered,” Dr Murphy said.

“The University of Southern Queensland has the largest group of exoplanet researchers in Australia so I was really eager to move here.”

"Our research is looking closely at young exoplanets – we know quite a lot about old exoplanets, but we really want to know more about them as they’re forming.”

“My expertise in stellar pulsations helps us to work out how old the stars are, and therefore, how old the planets are.”

Using stellar pulsations as clocks, Dr Murphy tracks the stars’ orbital motions through space – from the stellar nursery (where stars are born) to the clusters they call home.

“I also use the pulsations to make inferences on stellar structure, including precise measurements of stellar ages and metallicities,” Dr Murphy said.

"With these, we can recalibrate the ages of the stars by determining the ages of the clusters and associations in which they reside.”

Dr Murphy was among 100 early-career researchers awarded a Future Fellowship by the Australian Research Council last year– a $94 million scheme to find solutions for key industry challenges, while training the next generation of researchers.

Find out more about Astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland.