SPACE TIME: Dr Jessie Christensen will join a host of experts at next week's Festival of Astronomy at USQ's Ipswich and Toowoomba campuses - pictured is USQ's Mt Kent observatory, south of Toowoomba.
SPACE TIME: Dr Jessie Christensen will join a host of experts at next week's Festival of Astronomy at USQ's Ipswich and Toowoomba campuses - pictured is USQ's Mt Kent observatory, south of Toowoomba. contributed

Ipswich astronomer counting lucky stars

FORMER St Mary's College student Jessie Christiansen had stars in her eyes from an early age.

The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute researcher's fascination with space began when she used to lie on her backyard trampoline at the family's Peak Crossing home as a teenager.

After many years of study, she landed her dream job as a researcher with NASA's Kepler space observatory, where she has discovered thousands of new planets thousands of light years away.

 

Former Ipswich researcher Dr Jessie Christiansen.
Former Ipswich researcher Dr Jessie Christiansen. Contributed

Dr Christensen is back home and will join a host of experts at next week's Festival of Astronomy at USQ's Ipswich and Toowoomba campuses.

"There are billions of planets out there, but the question is, are planets like Earth common or rare?" she said.

"We think Earth-like planets are out there."

USQ has worked with groups such as NASA and the European Space Agency to hunt for planets outside the solar system.

The work - including supporting NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission using the new MINERVA-Australis facility under construction at the University's Mount Kent Observatory - has made USQ the perfect location to celebrate all things astronomical.

"We are now poised at an incredibly exciting time where we are moving from characterisation of individual exoplanets to studying their populations," Dr Christiansen said. The Festival of Astronomy will take place August 16-18. Go to www.usq.edu.au/events/2018 /08/festival-of-astronomy.



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