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TSAA Expands Partnerships to Give Students Access to Research Grade Telescopes

Left to right - Chris Dilger (IT Designer, TSAA), Shane Knuth MP, David Platz (Head of School, TSAA), Prof. Brad Carter (University of Southern Queensland)

The School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Creates New Opportunities for Students to Research Exoplanets with the University of Southern Queensland

For high school students enrolled in TSAA's online courses, access to the new research telescopes means they can now use the high-level mathematics and physics skills to conduct their own research. Alongside seasoned researchers, these students will have the opportunity to use the data collected from the array to co-author papers in academic journals. 
Staff from TSAA recently travelled to Queensland Parliament to build on a major partnership with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). "We have had a unique partnership with USQ for many years now, through which many students have experienced opportunities some of us would only dream about, through networking with professional astronomers to working on real projects using research grade telescopes.  To expand on this partnership gives students more opportunities to do real science, alongside professionals in the field,” Head of School, David Platz states.  For the past 2 years, students enrolled in the online Astronomy and Astrophysics courses have made use of the 20" and 27" ‘Shared Skies’ telescopes at USQ’s Mt Kent observatory as part of TSAA's annual Student Astro Conference.
The partnership with USQ means that TSAA students will have access to significantly better research tools. Professor Brad Carter says, "The MINERVA-Australis project is expected to achieve the same precision as Harvard's MINERVA project and TSAA's high school students will gain access to MINERVA-Australis to engage them in exoplanet research supporting NASA's TESS mission."
Wholly invested in innovation, TSAA is negotiating to open access to the Twinkle infrared space telescope to students, scheduled for launch 2019-2020. David Platz comments, "There seems to be no limits to our exciting partnership with USQ.  From 2018, students will have access to a dedicated TSAA research telescope collecting data that will feed research conducted by Harvard University & NASA to study exoplanets, along with the prospect of accessing an infrared space telescope scheduled to be launched in 2019 through the EduTwinkle project to further this type of research.  Students will be a part of this work.” 
Each of the CDK 700 (0.7m) telescopes as part of MINERVA-Australis will monitor distant stars to study the properties of exoplanets orbiting them, by taking accurate measurements of the star’s light output over time. Students will have access to the array remotely via an online interface to capture images of the night sky.

TSAA Students Shooting for the Stars


Right to Left - Eden Cvetkovic (Senior Astronomy Graduate), Noah Hinds (Senior Astronomy and Senior Astrophysics Graduate).


Student Eden Cvetkovic is nearly finished studying Senior Astronomy, and plans to study Senior Astrophysics as part of his pathway into the University of Southern Queensland's Bachelor of Science (Physical Sciences).
Eden reflects on his experience, "I've always had an interest in Astronomy for as far back as I can remember. Studying with TSAA has allowed me to really learn about the how's and why's of Astronomy rather than just learning the what's from documentaries.  The problem solving skills that the courses have taught me has had a direct flow on into my other maths oriented subjects."
Student feedback informs the design of all of TSAA's Online courses, and will also be taken into account once we have students using our telescopes remotely.  Noah Hinds, after having participated in the Annual Student Astro Conference, using the 27" PlaneWave Telescope at Mt Kent states, "Studying Astronomy and Astrophysics through TSAA has provided me with amazing opportunities such as work experience at ANU’s Mt. Stromlo Observatory as well as being accepted into the 2017 National Youth Science Forum.  It has also helped me determine my future career and further my passion for the maths and sciences."
Noah will now join a black Hole research project with TSAA over his holidays, after completing Senior Astrophysics.