Graduate profile

Dr Peter Edmonds

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Peter Edmonds

  • Studied: Undergraduate physics, honours in astronomy, PhD in astrophysics
  • Now works as: Press Scientist, Chandra X-Ray Centre, Cambridge, USA

Peter Edmonds has a stellar career - working in astronomy means he deals with stars every day! After majoring in Physics and doing Honours research in astronomy, followed by PhD research on searching for pulsations from stars like the Sun, Peter moved to the US for his first postdoctoral fellowship and has been there since.

He now works at the Chandra X-ray Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which operates NASA's flagship mission for X-ray astronomy. The Chandra X-ray Observatory orbits the Earth and detects X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.

"As Press Scientist for Chandra, my job involves searching for the most exciting and important research that is being done with Chandra. I help produce press releases, press conferences and graphics to explain this research," said Peter.

"I enjoy this work because I'm learning all the time and because we have the ability to reach – and hopefully intrigue and inspire – large numbers of people."

Besides working in outreach for Chandra, Peter also works on the science section of Chandra's proposals for NASA's Senior Review. Every two years, NASA reviews the astronomy missions in extended lifetime to see whether they're still being productive, and to make budget cuts if necessary.

Peter decided to pursue a career in astronomy after an inspiring talk given by Lawrence Cram, then head of astrophysics at the University of Sydney, to his third year physics class.

"He showed me not only that astronomy is a fascinating field of research, but that there was a great deal of potential at the University of Sydney."

Although most of his career has been spent in the US, Peter says that Australia has a strong reputation internationally in astronomical research, especially considering Australia’s relatively small population.

"Australia put forward a strong proposal for hosting the Square Kilometer Array, which will end up being in either Australia or South Africa. Australia is doing important research in fields such as cosmology and stellar astrophysics; there’s the Nobel Prize co-awarded to Brian Schmidt; and the work of CAASTRO led by Bryan Gaensler at the University of Sydney," said Peter.

His first job after his PhD was as a postdoctoral fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, working on data obtained by Ron Gilliland of observations of the globular cluster 47 Tucanae.

"The main goal of my first research job was to study pulsations among the blue stragglers - stars that are unusually hot and massive for an old cluster - but we also ended up with interesting results about binary stars and pulsating red giants."

"As an astronomer, I have worked with data from two of the greatest observatories mankind has built, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. It's the only field where you can say, without a trace of irony or exaggeration, that the sky's the limit!"