An ASKAP antenna at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. Image Credit: Ant Schinckel, CSIRO.




Quarterly update: August 2012

Funding secured during 2011/12

During the 2011/12 financial year AAL secured $2.8M in new grants for astronomy infrastructure. The largest award was an eResearch grant from NeCTAR targeted at SkyMapper and simulation datasets. The other major grants were from the Australian Government to support MWA operations, and to continue Australian access to Magellan. AAL greatly appreciates the work of the AAO in enabling the Magellan funding to be secured. Minor grants were secured to assist with planning for engagement with ALMA and the 0.5m Schmidt telescope at Dome A, Antarctica.

AAL staff changes

Earlier this year we wished farewell to Amanda Kocz, AAL's Executive Officer for the previous two years. On 19th April 2012 three new staff members commenced employment with AAL:

  • Mita Brierley, Project Officer: Mita holds a PhD in astronomy from the University of Canterbury, and has worked as a lecturer in physics.
  • Sue/ Russell, Finance Manager and Company Secretary (part-time): Sue holds an MSc from The University of Melbourne, is CPA qualified, and worked in medical research for several years before changing careers to work in finance.
  • Yeshe Fenner, Executive Officer: Yeshe holds a PhD in astrophysics from Swinburne University of Technology, and has worked in project management and support for the past six years.

The net increase in AAL staff of 1.5FTE allows AAL to resource its eResearch projects and to cease out-sourcing many of its accounting and company compliance tasks.

eResearch projects

In recent months AAL has made progress with several of its eResearch responsibilities:

  • In May AAL completed the Federation of National Astronomy Datasets - Concept Design Study and submitted the report to the Australian Government. The report recommends the establishment of a facility to be titled the Australian Centre for Astronomy Data. This centre would house a permanent infrastructure development and research support team to build services and provide on-going support for astronomers around Australia. The investment required to realise such a centre is estimated at $5.9 million over five years.
  • In June AAL signed a $1.65M funding agreement with the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) to commence the All Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO) project, in partnership with the National Computational Infrastructure/Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology, and Intersect Australia Ltd. ASVO will bring together optical survey data from the SkyMapper telescope with theory data from the Theoretical Astrophysical Observatory, as a first step toward the larger vision presented in the Federation of National Astronomy Datasets Concept Design Study. The ASVO team held a kick-off workshop in May 2012, with the system to be rolled out by late-2013. Potential users are strongly encouraged to contribute to ASVO by telling us what features and functionality they would like, and by testing the system during development. Please contact AAL if you are interested in contributing.
  • In July AAL's Astronomy Supercomputer Time Allocation Committee made its second allocation of astronomy-dedicated high-performance computing resources. Time was allocated on the NCI peak system, Swinburne University of Technology's gSTAR machine, and the Pawsey Centre's Epic and Fornax systems. Applications were received from CIs around Australia, with the successful proposals having representation from eight Australian institutes in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Western Australia. The next call for proposals for HPC time in 2013 will be made in December 2012.

Antarctic science workshop

In mid-August AAL, along with CAASTRO and UNSW, organised a one-day workshop hosted by CAASTRO in Sydney: Wide-field Optical Astronomy from Antarctica: A Chinese-Australian Workshop. The objective of the workshop was to define a plan for Australian contribution to the commencement of significant scientific output from the Chinese AST3 telescope project at Dome A on the Antarctic plateau. Around fifty Australian astronomers attended and engaged with invited Chinese astronomers Ji Yang (Purple Mountain Observatory), Lifan Wang (Purple Mountain Observatory/Texas A&M University) and Jilin Zhou (Nanjing University).

The workshop participants successfully identified key science areas for collaboration between Chinese and Australian astronomers using AST3 data and potential complementary instruments and resources in Australia.

Aus Ch Ant Wrkshp

Attendees at the Wide-field Optical Astronomy from Antarctica: A Chinese-Australian Workshop, 13 August 2012.

Annual General Meeting

The next AAL AGM will be held at The University of New South Wales on 2nd November 2012. All member representatives are encouraged to attend the AGM.

Board and advisory committee appointments

In early September AAL will advertise the upcoming vacancies on its board and committees. As per the AAL constitution, AAL will form a nomination committee of the members to review all the applications to join the AAL board. Member representatives who wish to participate in the nomination committee should email sue.russell -at- by 21st August 2012.