• Adjunct
Staff Record
Photo of Rob Wittenmyer
Senior Lecturer

Rob Wittenmyer



S1 2013: Higher Physics 1A (1131)

S1 2014: Physics 1A (1121)

S2 2014: Physics 1111 and Physics 3160

S1 2015: Physics 1A (1121)


UNSW Foundation Studies Subject Consultant - Physics


PhD  University of Texas at Austin, 2008.   Astronomy

M.S.  San Diego State University, 2003.   Astronomy

M.A.  Boston University, 2001.   Biology

Education Credential   Fresno Pacific University, 2000.   California, K-8 Multiple-Subject

B.A. (Honours)  Williams College, 1998.   Astronomy, Biology, Environmental Studies

Research Interests: 

The Pan-Pacific Planet Search

We aim to understand how planetary system characteristics depend on stellar mass. I have built a collaboration with partners in the US (Caltech, Texas) and China (NAOC, Nanjing University, Shandong University). For 4 years, we have observed 170 evolved, intermediate-mass stars in a high-precision radial-velocity search for planets.

Minerva: A dedicated exoplanet observatory

Low-mass planets are extremely common, but the ability to characterise them in detail is severely limited by the availability of telescope time. The Minerva project is a dedicated multi-telescope facility which is able to intensely monitor nearby bright stars for the small radial-velocity “wobbles†due to orbiting terrestrial planets. This innovative new facility gives Australian exoplanetary scientists a privileged position in this exciting new research.  Supported by ARC LE140100050

The Anglo-Australian Planet Search

A 15-year program using the UCLES high-resolution spectrograph at the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope to make precise Doppler velocity measurements of nearby Sun-like stars. This program, led by Prof Chris Tinney, has so far discovered 40 planets. The long baseline and high precision of our database also gives our team the unparalleled ability to determine the frequency of Jupiter analogs in the solar neighbourhood.

Dynamical Work

With collaborators Jonathan Horner and Tobias Hinse, we have led the push for detailed dynamical testing of newly-discovered multi-planet systems. Often we have found that the proposed planets move on orbits which are disastrously unstable, disproving the existence of the planets. In other cases, this dynamical work can better constrain the orbits of the planets, as stability criteria can require that planets be locked in narrow mean-motion resonances.

The Alpha Centauri Project

A search for earth-mass planets in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri. At New Zealand's Mt John Observatory, we are conducting intensive precision radial-velocity observations of the nearest Sun-like stars. We aim to collect 50,000 spectra of Alpha Centauri, which will permit the detection of Earth-mass planets in habitable-zone orbits.  Supported by ARC DP110101007

Selected Publications: 

A list of my published papers can be found at this ADS link