Optical astronomy in Australia

Strategic partnership between Australia and the European Southern Observatory (ESO)

The “Maintaining Australia’s Optical Astronomy Capability” measure announced in the 2017-18 Budget provides $26.1 million in new government funding to secure Australia’s ongoing pre-eminence in optical astronomy research excellence, industry engagement and instrumentation.

As part of this measure, the government will be joining a ten-year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The unique offer of a strategic partnership reflects ESO’s strong desire for Australian participation and global recognition of Australian astronomy research excellence. It provides Australia with a timely and valuable opportunity to meet the astronomy community’s most pressing infrastructure needs.

What is ESO?

ESO is the pre-eminent intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy with 15 member states. It designs, constructs and operates astronomy research facilities to enable important scientific discoveries, and plays a leading role in promoting and organising international research cooperation.

ESO operates three world-class observing sites in the Atacama Desert region of Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. Each site hosts multiple telescopes operated by ESO and other organisations. These are some of the world’s most advanced optical and infrared telescopes, which observe a different part of the spectrum from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

For more information on the telescopes, visit the ESO website.

Official signing of the Australia-ESO Strategic Partnership

On Tuesday, 11 July 2017, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, joined the Director-General of the ESO, Professor Tim de Zeeuw to sign the arrangement to enter into this major international collaboration. The event was officiated by the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University and Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt and the President of the Astronomical Society of Australia, Professor Virginia Kilborn.

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