By Patricia Wong
A 25-year-old Perth student’s research on the detection of gamma ray bursts has been recognised by NASA.
University of Western Australia astronomy student Damien Macpherson’s work, which has uncovered that its latest telescope will detect rays from explosions from the earliest stars within five years, has been adopted by NASA.
Mr Macpherson, from Willetton, is the first student in WA to have his work recognised by the world’s most-well known space agency.
He formulated a new calculation that allows astronomers to establish the detectability of gamma rays.
NASA will use the information when it launches its James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.
The JWST is expected to be used by thousands of astronomers across the world for the next ten years.
Mr Macpherson, who is studying for a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics said he credited his success to support from Australia’s International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). ICRAR is a government funded research institution running by both University of Western Australia and Curtin University.
He said he was surprised and honoured by the recognition.
Mr Macpherson said he was trying to figure out how to increase the chance of seeing the short-lived but brightest gamma ray light when he came up with the new calculation.
Gamma rays bursts are flashes of gamma rays associated with extremely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies.
His research was published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Mr Macpherson said he hoped his success will inspire many WA students to go into the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
As a young boy growing up in Willetton, Mr Macpherson said he was fascinated by the stars and space.
He said the key to become an astronomer is having a good foundation of physics, especially when it comes to the complex work in the discipline of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
“You don’t necessarily need to be good at mathematics but you have to be good at physics”, Mr Macpherson said.
He will be continuing his research with NASA and to work on Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA).