Karlie Noon

12 February 2018

Meet Karlie Noon, who is studying her Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU. Karlie is in her first year and is specifically interested in making connections between Astronomy and her Indigenous heritage. 

Karlie, firstly, can you tell us what interests you about astronomy?

What's not to like?! I get to look at galaxies, learn about how stars are formed and look at amazing images of pretty space stuff. It's also incredibly challenging which is always fun.

You recently made history as being the first Indigenous person to graduate in New South Wales with a double degree in mathematics and science which you obtained from the University of Newcastle, but your life has seen some ups and downs prior to this achievement. Tell us about that light-bulb moment you had where you decided to bounce back and are now studying a field as interesting as astronomy and astrophysics.

Hmm, I don't think there was one. In my mind my life was normal. It was the same life my mum, my sister and a lot of my family so it didn't occur to me that I had to 'bounce back'. I never had a plan for any of this, I just followed what I was interested in and learned to ignore any critics and my own doubts along the way.

A lot of discoveries in science are pinned to Europeans however this is not the case when you consider the vast amount of discoveries Indigenous Australians made.

Connecting science with your Indigenous heritage is a fascinating research combination. Tell us about this exciting area that you are working in and how you are hoping to help other Indigenous Australians.

Thank you! It is something I am extremely proud of and excited about. Indigenous knowledge is an incredible source of complexity and science. Doing inquiry for 60,000 years produces a plethora of intricate knowledge, often things that the rest of the world has only recently discovered or who knows, might yet to be discovered.

I think it is incredibly important for the world to know how clever we were and still are. A lot of discoveries in science are pinned to Europeans however this is not the case when you consider the vast amount of discoveries Indigenous Australians made. We knew the Earth was not flat and we knew tides were influenced by the moon thousands of years before Galileo. 

We understand you're working on a paper on how Indigenous people used moon haloes - rings around the moon formed by ice crystals - to predict storms. This sounds extremely interesting - tell us about it and some other areas you are focusing on as part of your Masters work.

Researching halos is not a part of my Masters. This is a paper I am doing in my spare time with the help of the amazing Indigenous astronomer, Duane Hamacher. I look at the intricacies of traditional weather predicting techniques and explore how it correlates to the physical systems in the lower atmosphere.

My masters research project is slightly different; instead of looking at ice clouds in the lower atmosphere I am looking at gas clouds outside the Milky Way. If you have any questions about clouds you know who to ask!

Fast-forward into the future. After you complete your Masters, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

It is my dream to own one of those floppy hats so hopefully by then I will have a PhD. Additionally, teaching is something that gives me passion and purpose so hopefully I will be teaching lots of people about how cool our world is.