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Australian Astronomers setting their sights high

21 February 2018

The Turnbull Government’s strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is producing returns for our investment in astronomical research.

The strategic partnership, announced in July 2017, increases Australia’s research and industry opportunities in optical astronomy so that Australia can remain at the forefront of ‘big science’ collaborations and the quest for deep, fundamental understanding of the universe.

The partnership gives Australian astronomers better access to the 8‑metre telescopes at ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories in the Atacama Mountains of Chile. The observatories are among the world’s best for optical astronomy.

Forty-three Australian astronomers have recently won valuable observing time on the telescopes beginning in April this year.

The astronomers were successful in ‘Observing round 101’— the first round of competitive time that Australian-based astronomers could bid for under the strategic partnership with ESO.

In addition to the telescope access, there will be new opportunities for Australian businesses to tender for contracts as a result of the ESO partnership. These contracts range from heavy engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering to the design and development of precision optics, electronics, sensors, and complex instrumentation.

The Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash, highlighted the importance of the historic partnership and opportunities for our scientists and businesses.

“Time on these telescopes is hotly contested among the world’s best astronomers,” Minister Cash said.

“The fact that more than 40 locals have been successful in getting it demonstrates the high calibre of Australian astronomy. This kind of excellence led to the partnership with ESO in the first place.

“We are internationally recognised for our research excellence and our technical expertise in optical instrumentation.

“This partnership with ESO will ensure these strengths remain while, at the same time, allowing us to explore exciting opportunities for new Australian businesses to expand into a global market,” Minister Cash said.

A high-level delegation from ESO, including the Director General, Professor Xavier Barcons, toured Australia last week and visited key optical instrumentation facilities and the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring, near Coonabarabran.

Media contact: Minister Cash's office 02 6277 7320