SETI at Macquarie University

A visit from Dr Franck Marchis, SETI Institute

The Association for Astronomy, the Macquarie Astronomy, Astrophysics and Astrophotonics Research Centre, and Department of Physics and Astronomy are delighted to welcome Dr Franck Marchis for National Science Week.

During the week 5 - 12 August 2019, Dr Marchis will be participating in several events for our staff and students, some of which will be open to the public. Details can be found in the various event links below.

Franck Marchis is a French-American planetary astronomer working on the development and use of adaptive optics to study our solar system as well as extrasolar planets (alien planets). He works at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA and he is affiliated with the Observatoire de Paris and the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille.

Franck is also the CSO (Chief Scientific Officer) of a company named Unistellar that designs and manufactures a digital telescope that allows everybody to see galaxies. Nebulae from their backyard even in cities, as well as to participate to campaign of observations in collaboration with SETI Institute.

Mon 5 Aug - Diversity Talk and Q&A

The Faculty of Science and Engineering’s Women in STEM committee is hosting a conversation with Franck Marchis on science, diversity and inclusion.

Diversity in Astronomy: Why we should care

Dr Franck Marchis will discuss diversity in planetary science. He will present the work of the Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee of the Division for Planetary Science (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society whose mission is to identify actions that promote and ensure a broadly inclusive professional community characterized by respect, honesty, and trust, so that people of diverse backgrounds are, and perceive themselves to be, safe, welcomed and enabled to thrive as planetary scientists.

Dr Franck Marchis will also discuss his personal experience as an immigrant, Asian, African, LGBTQ, and father and he will present some of the Subcommittee’s recommendations.

Date: Monday 5 August

Time: 10.00 - 11.00am

Venue: 7WW 2.300 Multipurpose Room

Register here

Limited seating only. For guests external to Macquarie University, please contact the Outreach Team.

Wed 7 Aug - Astronomy Entrepreneurship talk @ MQAAAstro

Entrepreneurship @ MQAAAstro Coffee

Astronomy and Entrepreneurship. The SETI Institute Path

Located in the heart of the Silicon Valley, the SETI Institute is pivoting its business model by given the opportunity to scientists to participate to private-public partnerships like the Frontier Development Lab, or to become entrepreneurs. Several SETI Institute scientists have embraced this new dynamics and founded companies to spin off their research. Franck Marchis will present several of those initiatives with an emphasis on his own company, named Unistellar. Unistellar is designing and manufacturing a new type of digital telescope, to allow anybody to enjoy the dark sky, see nebulae and galaxies from their backyard, and become citizen astronomer by participating to campaigns of observations led by SETI Institute.

Date: Wed 7 August

Time: 10.30 - 11.30am

Venue: 7WW 2.300 Multipurpose Room

Limited seating only. For guests external to Macquarie University, please contact the Outreach Team.

Wed 7 Aug - Public Lecture - Another Pale Blue Dot

Another Pale Blue Dot: The SETI Institute's Search for Exoplanets

In only two decades, we've gone from the mere speculation about planets beyond our solar system ("exoplanets") to being able to observe them through a variety of methods. Dr. Franck Marchis, Planetary Astronomer and science outreach manager at the SETI Institute, will discuss new and sophisticated projects which aim to image directly those exoplanets. Future instruments could soon deliver an image of a cousin of Earth, or another Pale Blue Dot, a planet similar to our own. His talk will be followed by a demo of the Unistellar eVscope, an innovative robotic telescope developed in partnership with the SETI Institute.

Date: Wednesday 7 August

Time: 6.30pm - 7.30pm

Venue: Macquarie Marquee, Macquarie University

This is a free event. Ticket registration is available here:

Getting There: Macquarie University is accessible via the Sydney Metro. For further details, click here. Free parking is also available after 6pm in on-campus general parking zones, highlighted green here.

Thurs 8 Aug - Public Event - Sidewalk Astronomy in The Domain

Sidewalk Astronomy in The Domain

Franck Marchis is a French astronomer working at the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, SETI Institute in San Fransisco. He specialises in studying the Solar System and has discovered the first asteroid made of three distinct parts orbiting one another. He is also the CTO of the company Unistellar, which builds a new type of small telescope that allows viewers to see with their own eyes much fainter and distant objects. Franck will be showing the Moon, planets Jupiter and Saturn, stars and galaxies to Sydneysiders at the lookout of Mrs Macquarie's Chair in The Domain on Thursday 8 August from 5.30-7.30pm

Date: Thursday 8 August

Time: 5.30 - 7.30pm

Venue: Mrs Macquarie's Chair, The Domain, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

This is a free event. All are welcome to attend.

Fri 9 Aug - MQAAAstro seminar: 25 years of adaptive optics

25 years of adaptive optics in planetary astronomy, from the direct imaging of asteroids to Earth-Like exoplanets

Adaptive Optics (AO), a technology that compensates in real time for the atmospheric turbulences on ground-based telescopes has been used in planetary astronomy for 25 years. Saint-Pe et al (1993) is the first article reporting the direct imaging of the asteroid Ceres. Since then AO has flourished and has been installed on 4m-class and in 2000+ on 8m class telescopes allowing astronomers to conduct studies in our solar system, such as the monitoring the volcanic activity of Io (Marchis al., 2000), study Titan's atmosphere of haze and clouds (de Pater et al. 2006), identification of new storms on Neptune (Max et al., 2003), and the measure of the density of asteroids from newly discovered moons (Marchis et al., 2005). Over the last decade, adaptive optics technology has matured. Instruments that can reach the diffraction limit of 8m-class telescopes in visible light (e.g. Zimpol) provide images sufficient to study craters on the surface of main belt asteroids (Vernazza et al. 2017). I will discuss some of the first results of the HARISSA survey for Pallas, Hygiea, Iris and more.

AO technology is also used to study planets and disks outside our own solar system. Thanks to a high contrast achieved with coronagraph the close environment of stars can be directly imaged. Using the Gemini Planet Imager, Macintosh et al (2015) discovered a young self-luminous exo-Jupiter planet orbiting the star 51 Eridani. Structures like gaps in young circumstellar disks (e.g. HD97048, Ginski et al. 2016) have been reported and interpreted as the presence of nascent exoplanets.

The future of AO systems in planetary science is bright. AO systems are key to image Earth-like exoplanets around nearby stars and are part of future telescopes like ELTs, LUVOIR & HABEX. Several near-term privately funded projects are competing to image Earth-like exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri system. The 30-cm space telescope Project Blue (Morse et al., 2018) or the TIKI AO-equipped mid-infrared camera (Blain et al. 2018) could one day give us the image of another pale blue dot around one of these stars.

Date: Friday 9 August

Time: 3.30 - 4.30pm

Venue: 14 Sir Christopher Ondaatje Avenue (E7A) 801

This is a technical talk aimed at professionals in the Astronomical Optics industries.

Limited seating only. For guests external to Macquarie University, please contact the Outreach Team.

Fri 9 Aug - Observing with Unistellar @ MQ Observatory

We are very happy to welcome Dr Franck Marchis to our regular Friday Night Sky Discovery session at the Macquarie University Observatory. For more details, please visit:

Please note: This event is weather dependent. Please check the website for details.

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