New ARC centres will stand on the shoulders of CAASTRO

Sep 9, 2016

CAASTRO, the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics, has welcomed this week’s announcement of two new Centres of Excellence that will build on its pioneering work: CAASTRO-3D (the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions), headed by the Australian National University, and OzGRav (the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery), led from Swinburne University of Technology.  They are among nine new ARC Centres, each funded for seven years from 2017.

“This represents a vote of confidence in the excellence of astronomy and astrophysics research in Australia,” said Professor Bob Williamson, Chair of CAASTRO’s advisory board. “Two new centres, studying the most exciting aspects of our universe, its origins and its fates, will guarantee that Australia can have a proud place among its scientific peers.”

CAASTRO was the first ARC Centre of Excellence to be created in astronomy since the funding program began in 2003.  “CAASTRO has pioneered the model for a distributed astronomical institution,” said CAASTRO Director, Professor Elaine Sadler of the University of Sydney. “We have members in five Australian States and Territories and seven other countries.” The new Centres will continue to be collaborative and international.

CAASTRO-3D’s researchers will use innovative Australian technology for optical telescopes to obtain detailed multi-dimensional information about galaxies, allowing their internal dynamics to be studied as never before, and radio telescopes in Western Australia (the Murchison Widefield Array and the Australian SKA Pathfinder), to study the early Universe and the evolution of galaxies.

OzGRav will bring together the physics and astronomy communities to study the gravitational waves that generated so much excitement when confirmed in 2015, and progress their use as a tool to understand the Universe.  The Centre’s work will include a program at CSIRO’s Parkes telescope that measures pulsar signals to detect or constrain gravitational waves.

“Both Centres will be tackling big, exciting areas of research,” Professor Sadler said. “Just as importantly, each will train young scientists who’ll go on to work in large international projects like the Square Kilometre Array and the Giant Magellan Telescope.”

The ARC funding will support long-term studies, such as the pulsar-timing experiment, Professor Sadler said. It will also help Australia to maintain its skills in building sophisticated astronomical instruments, which it does for telescopes around the world.  “It takes a long time to develop that expertise, and without continuity of funding it can be quickly lost,” Professor Sadler said.

As it has always been in CAASTRO, outreach will be another important part of the new centres’ remit.  CAASTRO-3D and OzGRav will, for example, continue and extend the success of CAASTRO in the Classroom, a program that brings working scientists into classrooms around the country by videolink.  “Country kids often can’t get access to the same resources as city kids, but with this program they’re on an equal footing,” Professor Sadler said.  “CAASTRO in the Classroom has been a big success, and we’re extremely pleased that these new Centres will continue to bring front-line science into Australian schools.”


Dr Wiebke Ebeling, CAASTRO Education & Outreach Manager
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