The Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) is The Australian National University’s department of astronomy and astrophysics.

When was the last time you visited Mount Stromlo?


  • advance the observational and theoretical frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics, and their enabling technologies
  • provide national and international scientific leadership, and
  • train outstanding scientists.

The RSAA is located at the Mount Stromlo Observatory (MSO), a 20-minute drive from the main Acton campus of ANU near the centre of Canberra, Australia’s capital city. We also operate Australia’s largest optical observatory, which is located near the town of Coonabarabran in the western plains of New South Wales, and hosts telescopes of research groups from around the world as well as those of RSAA and other Australian institutions.

The observing facilities at the MSO itself were damaged by the Canberra bushfires of 18 January 2003, and the only research telescopes at Mount Stromlo today are at the Stromlo Satellite Laser Ranging observatory operated by the space technology company Electro Optic Systems.

Areas of research

  • Galactic archaeology - the study of the content, dynamics and evolution of galaxies.
  • Cosmology - the study of the contents and evolution of the Universe as a whole.
  • Planetary science - the study of the formation and evolution of planets, both in the Solar System but especially around other stars.
  • Black hole phenomena - the discovery of the locations of black holes and the study of their interactions with their environments.

In addition, we have a strong program in the design and implementation of advanced scientific instrumentation.

Some facts we are proud of

  • RSAA astronomer, Professor Brian Schmidt, was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011 for his work at RSAA showing that the cosmos is expanding at an accelerating rate. The only other Australian Nobel Prize in Physics was in 1915, when the Braggs won it for their work on X-ray crystallography.
  • RSAA astronomers are members of the national academies of science in Australia, the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and Spain.
  • RSAA is leading Australian participation in the billion-dollar, international Giant Magellan Telescope, a next-generation optical telescope having 100 times the sensitivity of the Hubble Space Telescope and delivering 10 times sharper images.
  • RSAA designed and built the first two Australian instruments for the international Gemini Observatory, NIFS and GSAOI, which make use of the new technologies of adaptive optics to remove the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • RSAA astronomers are regularly recognised for their innovative teaching methods.

RSAA is a family-friendly environment and strives to achieve a diverse and equitable community.