Universities gang up to take over major telescope
New agreement allows increased access to state-of-the-art instruments for academics.
From July 1, the Australian National University (ANU), based in Canberra, will lead a conglomerate of 13 institutions to run the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), located in Coonabarabran in the state of New South Wales.
Australia’s largest optical telescope, the AAT has been operational for more than four decades. When it began operating, the 3.9 metre device was the first of its kind to map the southern hemisphere skies.
Housed at the picturesque Siding Spring Observatory, it has taken part in a multitude of missions that have added to humanity’s knowledge of the dark expanse out there.
These include one named Galactic Archaeology with Hermes (GALAH), which involved mapping hundreds of thousands of stars in the Milky Way. Another, the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, measured changes in the light emitted by bodies in the northern and southern galactic hemispheres.
The current restructure allows the ANU to take over operation of the telescope from the Australian Astronomical Observatory.
This will allow Australian astronomers and universities to have unprecedented access to the highly sought-after advanced instruments, including a spectroscope capable of simultaneously observing 400 cosmic bodies. The move will also enable Australian scientists to access high-tech optic telescopes situated in Chile operated by the European Southern Observatory.
The academic partnerships will include universities from Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia.