Joss Hawthorn, University of Sydney @jossblandhawthorn

Joss Bland-Hawthorn is an ARC Laureate Fellow Professor of Physics and Director of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIFA). He was born in England before moving overseas in 1985. After receiving his PhD from the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the University of Sussex, he took a 3-year postdoc in astrophysics at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii. In 1988-1993, he was a tenured professor at the Space Physics & Astronomy Department, Rice University, Texas. In 1993, he joined the Australian Astronomical Observatory, Sydney. In 2000, he was appointed Head of Instrument Science, a new division that was created to reflect the increasing need for complex novel solutions to astronomical instrumentation.

In 2007, Joss was awarded the prestigious Federation Fellowship with a tenured professorship in the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA), School of Physics, University of Sydney. In 2009, he co-founded the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science (IPOS). In 2012, he was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Optical Society of America. In 2014, Joss was awarded the Australian Laureate Fellowship. He has won numerous awards and serves on several boards including Section H (IAU) and the Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics (USA). He has delivered... ...more...
For more background, see this December 2007 review in Gemini Focus or Profile of an Australian Astronomer under the web pages of the Astronomical Society of Australia. For media purposes, there is a high resolution portrait available here. Joss supervises a group of Honours undergraduate students, MSc and PhD students, and Postdoctoral research fellows. About half work in astronomy and astrophysics and the others work on astrophotonics, space photonics and quantum astronomy experiments. The Sydney Astrophotonic Instrumentation Labs (SAIL) are based at the School of Physics on campus although a lot of shared activity takes place at Macquarie University and the Australian Astronomical Observatory. His group retains strong links with activities at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics, Potsdam; the Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland and NASA Goddard, and numerous other linkages across Asia and Europe. There are about a dozen groups working on programs that started life at the University of Sydney. In collaboration with the Space Physics group, his team launched the first balloon-based photonic experiment in November 2012; this was followed by the first photonic satellite, the Inspire-2 cubesat sent to the International Space Station in April 2017, now in low-earth orbit. His developments and patents are increasingly being exploited by medical and telecomm companies, remote sensing and food industries.

Contact Details

Phone: +61 2 9351 2621
Fax: +61 2 9351 7726
Postal Address: Prof. J. Bland-Hawthorn, Sydney Institute of Astronomy, School of Physics, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Fedex Address: Prof. J. Bland-Hawthorn, School of Physics, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia

Research Highlights

For web links to my research papers since 1984, astronomy papers via ADS are found here (full) or here (low author count). Instrumentation papers are found here through SPIE. Optics papers are available here through My most recent patent can be found here. ...more...

Near field cosmology

This is a field of astrophysics I have developed with Ken Freeman since 1999; a text book on the topic is now well advanced. You may wish to see a review I wrote with Ken Freeman on "The Baryon Halo of the Milky Way" (Science, Jan 2000) or a related article in "Clues to Galaxy Formation" (Nature, July 1999). Both articles show the time is ripe for a general convergence of far-field cosmology and near-field cosmology (cosmogony). I explore these topics further here: 2002 Annual Reviews article, 2007 Saas Fee lectures, 2016 Annual Reviews article. An updated and extended version of the 2007 lectures was published in 2013; we provide download details below. ...more...

A new generation of astronomical instruments

SAIL has completed or is developing a range of novel astronomical instruments: SAMI, Hector, HERMES, GNOSIS, PRAXIS, MOHSIS, Pandora, Dragonfly, i-INSPIRE, PIMMS. SAMI is a major dark-time facility awarded 180 nights at the AAT to observe 3400 galaxies using integral field spectroscopy. This is to be extended to 100,000 galaxies with the automated Hector instrument in 2018. HERMES is a major bright-time facility at the AAT with the primary goal to observe a million stars using high-resolution spectroscopy over five years.

Astrophotonics and Space photonics

My interest in photonics started in 1999 when talking to Martin Harwit about the prospects of improved space communications. We were struck by how only a fraction of the potential data from space missions were getting back to Earth, even allowing for data compression. In 2002, I wrote two papers on "Laser Telemetry from Space" with father and son team, Martin & Alex Harwit (Science, July 2002). The papers were adopted as a NASA white paper in that same year and a workshop was held at JPL to discuss the work. My team at the AAO formed the Australian Centre for Space Photonics to pursue funding avenues. This led to a second NASA visit to Australia to attend the IAU 2003 where a special session was held on laser communications. In early 2006, and sooner than I had anticipated, a NASA Goddard team achieved the first interplanetary laser communications over a distance of 24 million km (Science, Jan 2006). With reference to our work, their paper describes how they used the MESSENGER satellite which is on a 6.6 year voyage to Mercury and due to arrive in early 2011. For more information, see our laser comms website. ...more...


Books. Here is a list of technical books I have written.
Popular & technical talks. Here is a list of popular and technical science talks from the last few years. I have not listed more general talks on science policy, women in science, technology in education, how to write grants and review papers, and so forth.
Popular articles. Here is an incomplete list of popular articles over the past few years.
Media interviews. Here is an incomplete list of media interviews over the past few years.
Old links. list.

Last updated: Oct 2016
Joss Hawthorn (