David's high-energy stargazing
Making new discoveries about the more extreme parts of our universe is part of the attraction of astrophysics for University of Adelaide student David Jones.
David recently moved from Melbourne to start his PhD at Adelaide which will involve using radio telescopes to measure the interactions of some of the highest energy particles in the universe with the moon's surface. The findings should help to explore acceleration mechanisms and models of the structure of the universe.
"I always wanted to do sciences, firstly it was palaeontology but I got interested in physics in high school and it was reading A Brief History of Time which got me into astrophysics," he said.
"It was so different to every other book that I read until then and concerned things so removed from everyday experience.
"I ended up doing a science degree at Monash University and after my honours decided to come to Adelaide for my PhD as the university has a greater focus on high-energy astrophysics."
To date, David has had the opportunity to use some high profile pieces of equipment to observe objects both in our galaxy and beyond.
"I had a Summer scholarship at the Australian Telescope National Facility and lived at the Australian Compact Array telescope near Narrabri for three months. The Compact Array is six 22-metre dishes spread over six kilometres," he said.
"I also had the opportunity to work at the Parkes telescope, which was in the film The Dish, and is 70 metres in diameter and the Schmidt telescope in Coonabarabran for an Honours observing project."
"I've got an eight-inch refractor telescope set up for celestial photography and I've been able to see Saturn's rings, a lot of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter and the Andromeda galaxy, that's the closest galaxy to the Milky Way.
"I enjoy the challenge of astrophysics and the fact that it's possible to make discoveries no one else has.
"Two studies have already been done to try to find the type of radiation I'm looking for in my PhD - we know it exists because it's been reproduced in a lab."
David said astrophysics offered many specialisations depending on a person's particular interest and studies in this area could lead to jobs at NASA, another US space science institute known as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or any number of other overseas universities and institutions.
"With high-energy astrophysics, and especially the area that I am in, there are opportunities to work for particle accelerator (laboratories) such as CERN in Switzerland. These places bombard atoms all day long with other atoms at very high speed and watch what comes out," he said.
"The bottom line is that astrophysics is great for people who like to work, travel and live overseas. Most people in an astronomy department will have worked and lived overseas at least some time in their careers."
Interested in the stars and the universe beyond? The Investigator Science and Technology Centre's Stardome, sponsored by the University of Adelaide, is a mobile planetarium which provides a simulation of the stars of the southern hemisphere and an immersing astronomy lesson.
It has been featured at exhibitions such as The Only Way To Live.
For more information, visit: www.investigator.org.au
Story by Lisa Toole