Our Research

Our world-class research crosses a wide breadth of disciplines and interdisciplinary approaches to better understand the role of astronomy in history, culture, and society, and how this can be shared with the public and safeguarded for future generations.

Our programs involve an an inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary suite of research projects and collaborations spanning faculties across the university and beyond. These include the School of Physics, the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, the School of Biosciences, the Melbourne School of Psychological Studies, the Melbourne School of Design, the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, the Victoria College of the Arts, and the Indigenous Knowledges Institute.

Check out our research areas and latest research outputs below.

Indigenous Astronomy

This work focuses on studying the role of astronomy in First Nations and non-Western cultures. Current projects focus on star knowledge of the Torres Strait, the astronomy of Kulin Nations, Lanna astronomy of Thailand, and psychological studies to understand why stellar groupings are seen in such similar ways by cultures spread across space and time.


Ancient and Indigenous cultures of the world developed knowledge systems and constructed monuments that reflect ancient understandings of the Sun, Moon, and stars. The night sky played an important role in ritual, ceremony, power structures, architecture, and social development. Much of this knowledge is restricted to the material record in the form of artefacts, rock art, stone arrangements, and monuments, paying particular reference to the local landscape and skyscape.

History of Astronomy

In many cultures the study of celestial phenomena has taken a central role in the attempts to understand the world they lived in. Drawing from historical records, we examine how observers formulated rules for the behaviour of celestial bodies and infer various conclusions from these rules, ranging from cosmological models to astrological predictions.

Astronomy and Society

Astronomy and space science play a major role in modern society by driving innovation, boosting the economy, servicing astro-tourism, generating interest in astrophysics, and playing an important role in theatre, music, film and art. Participation in these areas, as well as professional astronomy in all areas, tends to present boundaries and walls for certain groups of people. Our programs look at the role of spac

Meteorites in History and Society

The appearance of comets and meteors, and their occasional impact with the Earth, is a phenomenon that has guided, influenced, and even ended life on Earth. It has also been a focal point of cultures across the globe, who describe the relationship between meteors, impact craters, and meteorites and their traditions about their formation, meaning, and agency.

Dark Sky Studies

Safeguarding our connection to the stars is dependent on our ability to see them. This is under growing threat from light pollution and the increasing presence of artificial satellites. Our trans-disciplinary research focuses exploring ways we can safeguard our skies and our vision of the stars, seeking solutions from engineering, design, and landscape architecture.

Philosophy of Science

The philosophy of science is a field that deals with what science is, how it works, and the logic through which we build scientific knowledge. Our works examines ideas about the nature of science, different forms of science, and how these different ways of knowing can help answer important questions, drive innovation, and help us rethink how we can apply knowledges in their different forms to the pressing issues we face today.

Astronomy Education and Outreach

How we continue to develop educational programs, tourism, public engagement, and social media around the subject of astronomy (in all of its forms) is based on an understanding of education, society, and culture. Our programs examine the most effective ways of communicating astronomical concepts and educating students and the public alike.

New Books

Hamacher, D.W. with Elders & Knowledge Holders (2022) The First Astronomers: How Indigenous Elders Read the Stars. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Noon, K. and De Napoli, K. (2022) Astronomy – Sky Country. First Knowledges series, edited by Margo Neal. Thames & Hudson

Latest Book Chapters

Hamacher, D.W. and Nakata, M. (2023) Research Frameworks in Indigenous Astronomy. In Australian Perspectives on Indigenous Knowledge, edited by Marcia Langton and Michael-Shawn Fletcher. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Bush, M. and Hamacher, D.W. (2023) World Developments: Australasian and Oceanic Cultures. In A Cultural History of the Universe in the Age of Enlightenment. Volume 4, edited by Clifford Cunningham. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Hamacher, D.W., De Napoli, K. and Mott, B. (2022) Whitening the Sky: light pollution as a form of cultural genocide. In Stories of the Sky, Proceedings of the 18th Annual Sophia Centre Conference, edited by John McKim Malville. Lampeter, UK: Sophia Centre Press.

Latest Research Papers

Kemp, C.; Hamacher, D.W.; Little, D.R. and Cropper, S.J. (2022) Comparing constellations across cultures. Nature Astronomy, Vol. 6, pp. 406–409.

Kemp, C.; Hamacher, D.W.; Little, D.R. and Cropper, S.J. (2022) Perceptual Grouping Explains Similarities in Constellations Across Cultures. Psychological Science, Vol. 33(3), pp. 354–363.

Gullberg, S.R.; Hamacher, D.W.; Lopez, A.M.; Mejuto, J.; Munro, A.M.; and Orchiston, W. (2020). A Cultural Comparison of Dark Constellations of the Milky Way. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 23(2), pp. 390–404.

Lee, A.S.; Maryboy, N.; Begay, D.; Buck, W.; Catricheo, Y.; Hamacher, D.W.; Holbrook, J.; Kimura, K.; Knockwood, C.; Painting, T.K.; Varguez, M. (2021) Best Practices and Protocols for Including Indigenous Astronomy in the Planetarium Setting. Proceedings of the International Planetarium Society, Vol. 25, pp. 69–77.

Hamacher, D.W. (2020) Native American Traditions of Meteor Crater, Arizona: Fact, Fiction, or Appropriation? Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 23(2), pp. 375–389.

Hamacher, D.W., Leaman, T.M., Fuller, R.S., and Bosun, D. (2020) Solstice and solar position observations in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 23(1), pp. 89–99.