Innovative future laid out for Australian Astronomical Observatory
Stronger links with industry and access to more overseas facilities for Australian astronomers are among the areas Australia's national astronomical observatory will emphasise in the next few years, according to a recently released review.
The Australian Astronomical Observatory's (AAO) Forward Look review, released by Science and Research Minister Senator Chris Evans, delivers a specific strategy for Australian astronomy out to 2015 and, more broadly, to the end of the decade.
"The AAO provides Australian astronomers with access to world-class optical and infrared observing facilities, enabling them to do excellent science in Australia and abroad," Senator Evans said.
"The AAO is at the forefront of developing innovative technologies to address challenges in astronomy that could have important commercial implications in the future.
Senator Evans said that as part of the review, the AAO made a commitment to work with the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education to share that technology and research with Australian industry.
As a priority, the AAO will pursue greater access to large international optical telescopes for Australian astronomers.
Australia currently has a 6.2 per cent share in the two eight-metre Gemini telescopes, one in Hawaii and the other in Chile. The AAO will endeavour to boost access for Australian astronomers to the level of a 20 per cent share in an eight-metre telescope.
"These programs are undertaken in collaboration with Australian and overseas institutions, and the AAO will look to multiply and strengthen links with our international partners," Senator Evans said.
"At the same time, it will seek to share its intellectual property with industry, in line with the National Innovation Priorities."
The AAO is already a world leader in wide-field multi-object spectrographs and robotic fibre positioners, which are used on many of the world's largest telescopes to survey stars in our own galaxy and galaxies throughout the universe, and has several new technologies under development.
"AAO plans to continue to operate its flagship telescope, the four-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in NSW, for at least another decade," AAO Director Professor Matthew Colless said.
"Few other institutions have access to their own large telescope, which is invaluable for testing and developing less costly prototypes of instruments before more expensive versions are built for larger telescopes.
"New instruments will keep the AAT internationally competitive and a valuable facility for Australian astronomers."
The Forward Look was developed in consultation with all major stakeholders of Australian astronomy and within the framework of the Australian astronomical community's decadal plan for 2006-2015.
It was launched at the annual scientific meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia held in Sydney.