Thomas Plunkett


Planet Paparazzi

I'm from: Hobart, Tasmania
Current Location: Hobart, Tasmania
Position: PhD Candidate, School of Natural Sciences, College of Sciences & Engineering, UTAS
Field of research/work: Astronomy
YTS Years: 2023

Thomas's Notable career moments

  • Had an amazing high school science teacher.

  • Bought my first amateur telescope.

  • Nearly failed Year 12 Maths in college.

  • Finished studying physics as one of the top 13 students in my year at UTAS.

  • to 2023: Worked a summer job at CSIRO with the seafloor mapping team.

  • Started my research project looking at exoplanets.

About Thomas Plunkett

Did you know that we have discovered over 5000 planets outside of our solar system?

These are called ‘exoplanets’: planets that orbit other stars in our galaxy. They take many different shapes and forms. Some are rocky, like Earth and Mars, whilst others are mainly gas and ice, like Jupiter and Saturn. Strangely enough, the most common type of planet (known as ‘mini-Neptunes’) aren’t even found in our own neighbourhood. There are even planets so close to their star that it takes less than an hour to go completely around. You would celebrate New Year’s Eve 24 times each day!


But why should we care about these distant worlds? By looking at these exoplanets, we can learn more about how our own solar system got here. We obviously can’t go back in time to see how Earth originated. However, we can find exoplanets that are in various stages of their life and use them to understand how planets form and evolve. By searching for Earth-like exoplanets, we may even discover signs of life outside of Earth. Let’s hope so, because otherwise it would be an awful waste of space.

That’s where I come in. I use telescopes based here in Tasmania, along with others across the globe, to search for exoplanets. My project will inform decisions made for future space-based missions that will aim to measure the atmospheres of thousands of exoplanets. I have wanted to work in this field of science since high school, so it is truly a dream come true to undertake a research project in this area. I may even get to name a planet one day!