Born: Sydney, 1973
Professor Bryan Gaensler is an astronomer, working as an ARC Federation Fellow and Professor of Physics in the Sydney Institute for Astronomy within the School of Physics at The University of Sydney. His research focus is cosmic magnetism, which plays a role in how stars and galaxies evolve. This includes work on supernova remnants, and he has been internationally recognised for his achievements in the observation and analysis of magnetars and magnetic fields.
Magnetic fields are not visible, so Gaensler’s team uses radio telescopes in Australia and the USA to observe the ‘Faraday rotation’ of distant galaxies, in which light from a background object is changed when it passes through a cloud of magnetised gas. These observations generate three dimensional maps of cosmic magnetism, which can provide insight into how the magnetic fields work, and the role that they play in the formation of a galaxy.
Gaensler was the international project scientist for the Square Kilometre Array Telescope in 2007 and 2008, and is the Principal Investigator on the Polarisation Sky Survey of the Universe’s Magnetism (POSSUM), which is intended to be conducted with the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder. The POSSUM team are planning to measure the Faraday rotation of three million extragalactic radio sources over 30,000 square degrees, improving understanding of astrophysical magnetism.
Gaensler was named Young Australian of the Year in 1999, in recognition of his groundbreaking discoveries in astronomy. He undertook postgraduate work at The University of Sydney and at CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility. He subsequently held postdoctoral fellowships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and then was an associate professor of astronomy at Harvard University, before returning to the Sydney Institute of Astronomy in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney in 2006.
Starting in mid-2011, he will be embarking on two new roles: as an Australian Laureate Fellow, and as Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).
As Director of CAASTRO, Gaensler is working to establish Australia as the world-leader in wide-field radio and optical astronomy. The CAASTRO team aims to answer major unsolved problems in astronomy, to develop innovative ways of processing enormous data-sets, and to enable a diverse set of opportunities for students and early career researchers.
2006 – 2011: Federation Fellow, Australian Research Council
2010: Chair, Murchison Widefield Array
2008: Young Tall Poppy, Australian Institute of Policy and Science
2008: Delegate, Australia 2020 Summit
2006: Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy, American Astronomical Society
2006: Professor of Physics, The University of Sydney
2006: Federation Fellow, Australian Research Council
2006: Associate Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University
2005 – 2007: Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
2005: Harley Wood Lecturer, Astronomical Society of Australia
2002 – 2006: Assistant Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University
2003: Sir Thomas Lyle Fellow, University of Melbourne
2001 – 2002: Clay Fellow, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
1998 – 2001: Hubble Fellow, Center for Space Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1999: Young Australian of the Year
1998: PhD, University of Sydney
1995: University Medal in Physics, The University of Sydney
More by and about Bryan Gaensler
Australasian Science, ‘The Magnetic Universe’, Bryan Gaensler, January/ February 2009
POSSUM: Polarisation Sky Survey of the Universe’s Magnetism
Gaensler and Slane Research Group
The Melbourne Review, ‘Big ideas and new ways forward’, Bryan Gaensler, November 2008
‘Dark Matter’, Bryan Gaensler, an essay in response to Giles Ryder’s exhibition, May 2008
‘Barrels, jets and smoke-rings: Understanding the bizarre shapes of radio supernova remnants’, Bryan Gaensler, 1999
Cosmos Magazine, ‘A Star is Burst’, Bryan Gaensler, August 2005
Science Daily, ‘Magnetic Mystery Solved’, February 2005
ABC Radio National, In Conversation, Bryan Gaensler, November 2008 (audio)
Brainsmatter, Professor Bryan Gaensler – Magnetism in the Universe, December 2009 (audio)