Chris Tinney


I'm a Professor at the University of New South Wales, where I head the Exoplanetary Science at UNSW group, within the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, which is physically located within the School of Physics. I am also Associate Dean (Research) for UNSW Science.

Our Exoplanetary Science at UNSW group currently hosts two faculty, two post-doctoral researchers and four graduate students, working on projects ranging from the search for exoplanets orbiting Sun-like main sequence stars (the Anglo-Australian Planet Search), the search for exoplanets around evolved stars more massive than the Sun (Rob Wittenmyer's Pan-Pacific Planet Search), a high intensity search for terrestrial-mass planets orbiting the two components of the nearest star (alpha Cen A and B), direct imaging observations of already known long-period companions to Anglo-Australian Planet Search stars, follow-up of transit candidates from the HAT-South planet search, and hunting for planetary-mass methane dwarfs in nearby young star clusters.

We work closely with the Planetary Science group (lead by Prof Jeremy Bailey) and stellar astronomers Dr Sarah Martell and Dennis Stello.

We are also actively pursuing new technologies for searching for exoplanets - especially the use of image slicing fibre technologies for improving spectrograph performance, the use of astrophotonic technologies for removing spatial information from the entrance apertures of astronomical spectrographs, and ultra-calibration using laser-combs.

We will be using the FunnelWeb survey (starting operation in late 2016) to provide key input data for a range of future exoplanet searches, including transiting exoplanets from the NASA TESS mission, and young exoplanet hosts to be imaged with the Gemini GPI exoplanet imager.

We will also be leading the construction of the new Veloce spectrograph for the AAT to enable new generations of planet searches with Australia's largest on-shore photon bucket - the AAT.

We work closely with colleagues across the Australian Centre for Astrobiology to examine the impacts of our exoplanetary discoveries on the question of habitable environments outside the Solar System - especially with the members of Prof. Jeremy Bailey's Planetary Science group, here within the Astrophysics Department.


Current Position:

  1. Because every day there is the possibility that I will find out something about the Universe that no human being has ever known before.

  1. PhD (Astronomy), 1992, Caltech

  2. BSc (Hons), 1986, U. Sydney

Past Positions:

  1. ARC Australian Professorial Fellow (2007-2012)

  2. Head of Astronomy, Anglo-Australian Observatory (2001-7)

  3. Research Astronomer, Anglo-Australian Observatory (1994-2001)

  4. European Southern Observatory Fellow (1992-1994)


  1. Referreed papers

  2. All papers

General Research Interests

  1. Extra-solar planets - Sun-like stars, sub-giants

  2. Extra-solar planet follow-up - Rossiter-McLaughlin effect measurement, transit planet atmosphere measurement

  3. Brown dwarfs

  4. CCD/IR array astrometry

  5. Methane infrared imaging

  6. Wide-field surveys

  7. Galaxy proper motions

General Instrumentation Interests

  1. Doppler velocities at m/s precision

  2. Astrophotonics for high-resolution spectroscopy

  3. Infrared imaging and spectroscopy

  4. Optical Imaging and spectroscopy

  5. Infrared precision velocities

  6. Echelle spectroscopy

  7. Tuneable Filter imaging

  8. Charge Shuffling

  9. Sapphire Grisms

  10. AAO CCD non-linearity.

Relevant Links

  1. Exoplanetary Science at UNSW

  2. School of Physics, UNSW

  3. UNSW Science

Other Stuff I Like ....

Electronics: Bose QC20 in-ear noise cancelling headphones. These things are amazing. They give you the dynamic range to listen to classical music anywhere - on the plane, on a bus, while walking around ... since getting these 2 years ago I’ve listened to more music than over the previous 15! TiVo: this device still has the greatest user interface of any PVR I’ve ever seen, and still gets used every day at our house.

Cafe: Single Origin. My neighbourhood cafe, and (I maintain) the best coffee to be had in Sydney.

Cafe: Gnome - the other best coffee to be had in Sydney.

Some Links

  1. RealFooty

  2. David Mitchell at The Grauniad

  3. Good Show Sir ... hilarious SF book covers

Stuff I Really Can’t Stand ....

  1. People who stand right up close to the baggage carousel, so that no-one can see the bags. If everyone stands back 1m, then everyone can see the bags. Trigonometry folks - its not hard!

  2. Collingwood Football Club

  3. People who stop when they get off an escalator, or stop in doorways or hallways  ... basically anyone who clogs up the traffic flow as a result of not thinking.

  4. Cars that queue across intersections - see above.


About my research work ....

I grew up in the south-western suburbs of Sydney, attending St Patrick's College, Strathfield before doing a BSc(Hons) in Physics at the University of Sydney.

In 1987 I moved to Pasadena, California to do a PhD in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (yes the same one as in The Big Bang Theory, but then much less well known outside academia). Although I did small research projects there in VLBI, single-dish and inteferometer mm observations of ultra-luminous infrared galaxies, and IRAS infrared photometry of Asymptotic Giant Branch stars in the LMC, I eventually settled on a PhD project hunting for brown dwarfs (working with Neill Reid and Jeremy Mould).

Sadly, I didn't actually find brown dwarfs in the survey I did for my thesis, but I had a lot of fun trying. We also learned a lot more about M-dwarfs than we had known up until then, and I learned a lot about wide-field imaging surveys, infrared and optical photometry and spectroscopy, and doing astrometry with CCDs.

In 1992, I moved countries again to take up a Fellowship at the European Southern Observatory Headquarters in Garching, Germany. I continued working on brown dwarfs and CCD astrometry (and do so to this day).

In 1994, I moved back to Australia as a Research Astronomer at the Anglo-Australian Observatory. I stayed on at the AAO for just over 12 years - for the first half of it as an AAO support astronomer, and for the last half of it as Head of Astronomy (managing the support astronomers). While at the AAO I got progressively more and more involved in exoplanetary research, and that has become the largest focus of my work today.

More personally ....

I read rather a lot - mainly of history and science fiction. Though not so much of the latter these days - as I get older, finding new writers I like (and haven't already "read out") becomes harder and harder.

I listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4 (thank you Audio Hijack), ABC Radio National and (much more now that I have noise-cancelling ear-bud headphones) classical music.

Despite growing up in Sydney as a follower of rugby league (and the now defunct Western Suburbs - I just can't bring myself to be interested in the Wests Tigers), I have become am a rusted-on Sydney Swans supporter. I watch far too much AFL during the footy season.

About me ....