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




Quarterly update: May 2008

Astronomy NCRIS Strategic Options Committee

The Astronomy NCRIS Strategic Options Committee (ANSOC) terms of reference are available on the AAL website. ANSOC will recommend possible uses of the Astronomy NCRIS Strategic Options funds to develop Australia's optical astronomy infrastructure. Although the Strategic Options fund is relatively modest, it may act as seed funding for the next generation of Australian optical/infrared facilities. Therefore ANSOC will also offer guidance on the path forward for implementing the Decadal Plan in the area of optical/infrared facilities.

Three of AAL's advisory committees: the Australian Antarctic Astronomy Advisory Committee, the Australian GMT Advisory Committee, and the Australian Gemini Steering Committee, have been requested to seek community input before making their submissions to ANSOC from late-July.

The membership of ANSOC will comprise a majority of international astronomers: Prof. Garth Illingworth, Dr. Robert Williams and Prof. Malcolm Longair.

Optical/infrared Facilities Plan

AAL was delighted to have the opportunity to host Ms. Patricia Kelly (DIISR), Ms. Jessie Borthwick (DIISR), Dr. Michael Sargent AM (NCRIS), and Mr. Len Marsden (ARC), at its April Board meeting. At that meeting AAL discussed its intention to develop a plan for optical/infrared facilities, based upon the Decadal Plan and the advice of ANSOC. AAL intends to submit its plan to DIISR in October 2008. This plan would aim to clarify the path forward for existing and new facilities.

It was noted at the meeting that there is a critical decision required on the future of the AAT, and its parent organisation the AAO, with Australian ownership rising to 100% by 2010. Therefore any optical/infrared facilities plan will need to clearly identify the place of the AAT and AAO, and seek any associated operational funding as a matter of urgency, in the late-2008/early-2009 timeframe. A decision on potential investment into other facilities is not expected to be required in this timeframe, however, any optical/infrared facilities plan will seek to clarify expected costs for such new facilities over the next ten years.

2008 Annual General Meeting

As announced last quarter, the AAL Board has set the morning of 30th September 2008 as the date for this year's Annual General Meeting. The meeting will be held in Melbourne. As this meeting will include discussion of the allocation of the Astronomy NCRIS strategic options fund, and an optical/infrared facilities plan, member representatives are strongly encouraged to attend this AGM.

Nominations Committee

As required by AAL's constitution, two AAL directors are required to resign at the 2008 AGM. AAL will therefore ask the members to form a nominations committee, to be chaired by Elaine Sadler, to nominate candidates to fill these two vacancies on the AAL Board. Member representatives are asked to contact the AAL office by 31st May 2008 if they wish to participate in the nominations committee.