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




Astronomy Australia Ltd Newsletter October 2013

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AAL Annual Report 2012/13

AAL has published its Annual Report for 2012/13, describing project progress and AAL activities for the last financial year. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request a hardcopy.

Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (CRIS)

The CRIS Astronomy National Research Infrastructure Project is providing $3.454M to support operations of critical astronomy infrastructure during calendar years 2013 & 2014. AAL is the Lead Agent to administer this program and Swinburne University is the Higher Education Partner.

AAL is pleased to report that subcontracts have been executed to provide support for the following CRIS sub-projects:

- Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) operations (subcontractor: Curtin University)

- gSTAR supercomputer operations and technical support (subcontractor: Swinburne University)

- Australian Gemini Office (AusGO) operations (subcontractor: AAO)

- PLATO operations and maintenance (subcontractor: UNSW)

Currently under negotiation is a subcontract with CSIRO to support early operations of the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP)

In addition to the above sub-projects, the Astronomy-CRIS funding will help fund Magellan access in semester 2014B and AAL operations.

National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy 2013 (NCRIS-2013)

On 2nd August 2013, AAL and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE - now the Dept. of Industry) executed an NCRIS-2013 Funding Agreement that would provide up to $12.2M to support operations of critical astronomy infrastructure from mid-2013 to mid-2015. To be eligible, infrastructure must have been previously funded through NCRIS-2006 or EIF, and the funds may only support operations and routine maintenance (not construction or increasing capacity).

On 6th August 2013, AAL was asked to provide a draft NCRIS-2013 Project Plan by 2nd September 2013. During the four week period in which the Plan was prepared, AAL consulted with project leaders, AAL Advisory Committees, AAL members, AAL Board, and the government, to determine sub-project needs, eligibility, and alignment with the Australian Astronomy Decadal Plan 2006-2015 and its Mid-Term Review. The following sub-projects were included in AAL's NCRIS-2013 draft Project Plan submitted to government on 2nd Sep 2013:

- 8-metre class optical telescope access, and Australian Gemini Office (AusGO) operations until mid-2015

- Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) maintenance

- Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) operations

- Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) operations

- gSTAR supercomputer operations and support

- PLATO project management

- Pierre Auger Observatory Cloud Detector operations

- AAL operations

Acceptance of the draft Project Plan will trigger the first payment to AAL from the Commonwealth.

Australia China Astronomy Collaboration Award

On 27th June 2013, the Commonwealth provided funding to AAL to administer the Australia China Astronomy Collaboration Award (ACACA). ACACA is designed to strengthen and increase collaboration and exchange between Australia and China in areas of astronomical science, technology and education, by enabling Australian astronomy researchers to visit Chinese collaborators. AAL issued a call for proposals from leading Australian-based astronomers, which generated a strong response from qualified candidates.

We are very pleased to announce that the following three highest-ranked proposals, as determined by the ACACA assessment panel, have accepted the ACACA award:

- PI: Lister Staveley-Smith. Collaboration area: Radio telescopes including FAST, ASKAP & SKA.

- PI: Jon Lawrence. Collaboration area: Antarctic astronomy and potential Australian involvement in the Chinese KDUST and DATE5 Antarctic telescope projects.

- PI: Andreas Wicenec. Collaboration area: Advancing the Data Layer Element (SKA Work Package 10.5) with the SKA Science Data Processor consortium.

AAL Board and Committee Nominations

Applications for AAL Board and Committee positions closed at 1PM AEST today (4th October 2013), and AAL was delighted to receive applications from 20 individuals.

Board applications will be reviewed by AAL's Nomination Committee, which will put forward nominations to the AAL Members who will elect the Directors at the Annual General Meeting on 19th November 2013. Committee applicants will be notified of the outcome by 22nd November 2013, following review by the AAL Board Chair, Deputy Chair, CEO and Executive Officer, and consideration by the AAL Board at its next meeting on 18th November 2013.

Third mirror casting event for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)

On Saturday, August 24, 2013, Prof Warrick Couch (AAL Director) and Mark McAuey (AAL CEO) attended the Third Mirror Casting Event for the Giant Magellan Telescope at the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona. The mirror was cast inside a rotating furnace at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, the only facility in the world where mirrors of this size are being made (images from the event can be found on our GMT webpage). With the first GMT mirror completed to specifications, the second mirror ready for polishing, the third mirror having been cast, and materials for the fourth mirror ordered, the GMT project continues to make progress on the critical path towards construction.