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Star of science appointed Astronomer-at-large

17 September 2018

The Australian Government has appointed eminent astronomer, Professor Fred Watson AM, as Australia’s first Astronomer-at-large.

The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said Professor Watson would promote Australia’s world-leading astronomy and astrophysics capabilities to audiences here and overseas.

Professor Watson will use his expertise as a science communicator to inspire and excite young people’s interest in STEM, and encourage all of us to think about our place in the universe,” Minister Andrews said.

“The acclaimed scientist will work across the astronomy sector and with industry and government.

“Astronomy and astrophysics are major scientific strengths for Australia and I am extremely pleased that Professor Watson has agreed, as Astronomer-at-large, to promote the spectacular discoveries of this fascinating area of science.

Professor Watson has made an enormous contribution over a long career to science and science communication. It is tremendous to have such an experienced and high-profile Australian astronomer in this role.

“It is an important position and an exciting time for astronomy in Australia. From the Square Kilometre Array to the new Australia – European Southern Observatory partnership, there are huge opportunities for Australian astronomy.”

The Astronomer-at-large position is a public advocacy role and involves a range of duties, including fostering relationships with key stakeholders across government, industry bodies and research communities, and the broader public.

Professor Watson said he was delighted by his appointment.

“I am humbled to be appointed as Astronomer-at-large by Minister Andrews.

“Our country recently signed the Australia - European Southern Observatory (ESO) 10‑year Strategic Partnership that provides Australian astronomers with unprecedented access to world-leading technology.

“Australian astronomers can now use the 8-metre telescopes at ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories in the northern Andes of Chile, which are among the world’s best sites for optical astronomy.

“This partnership presents exciting opportunities for collaboration between Australian astronomers, research institutions and Australian businesses,” Professor Watson said.

Australian astronomy is also well-supported by its domestic capabilities.

The nation’s domestic capabilities include the 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory operated by the Australian National University (ANU), and the optical instrumentation expertise centred at Australian Astronomical Optics led by Macquarie University, and supported by the ANU and the University of Sydney.

“As Astronomer-at-large, I look forward to working with all partners and astronomers, and communicating this work with the broader Australian community,” Professor Watson said.

Media contact: Minister Andrews' office 02 6277 7070                     

                                                                                   

Biography of Professor Fred Watson

Professor Fred Watson AM is a popular science communicator in Australia.

Professor Watson was a senior executive and astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory between 1995 and 2018.

His main scientific interest was the use of novel technology to gather information on very large numbers of stars and galaxies.

Professor Watson is best known for his substantial experience in the promotion and popularisation of science and astronomy through public outreach.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to astronomy in 2010.