Secrets of universe explored at new astrophysics facility

23 November 2012

The new premises for SIfA and CAASTRO bring together experts from disparate fields of astrophysics.
The new premises for SIfA and CAASTRO bring together experts from disparate fields of astrophysics.

Research with the potential to lead the world in understanding the universe's secrets, including the formation of the first galaxies and the nature of dark matter, is being undertaken by astrophysicists from the University of Sydney in new premises opened this week.

"Apart from the massive potential for discovery, this research work has possible outcomes
and applications in everything from communications to medical imaging to remote sensing," said Andrew Stoner, Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment, who officially opened the facility.

Housing the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) the new building, located in Redfern, will be home to more than 100 leading astrophysicists.

"The goal of SIfA and CAASTRO is to bring the disparate fields of astrophysics, with their gazes pointed at different parts of the sky, and unify them in an 'all-sky' approach to get the biggest, clearest and most comprehensive picture of the universe possible," Mr Stoner said.

"This approach to astrophysics gives them the greatest chance of discovering the most
elusive secrets of the universe and of establishing NSW and Australia as the world leader in astronomy."

SIfA is part of the University of Sydney's School of Physics and a national and international leader in astronomy and physics. CAASTRO, the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics is led by the University of Sydney, in collaboration with the Australian National University, the Universities of Melbourne and Western Australia, Curtin and Swinburne Universities, and complemented by a group of Australian and international partners.

Among the researchers located in the new premises are CAASTRO's Director, Professor Bryan Gaensler, an Australian Laureate Fellow and one of the world's foremost experts on supernovae, and CAASTRO researcher Dr Tara Murphy, who will be leading a major international project to run on the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder. Dr Murphy was recently named 2012 NSW Young Tall Poppy of the Year.

"These two, and CAASTRO's many other leading scientists, bring considerable expertise in areas such as radio astronomy, optical astronomy, theoretical astrophysics and computation," said Dr Stoner.

"Thanks to these new facilities they will have access to cutting edge equipment that will
enable the processing of massive data from their various fields, combining outcomes to give them an all-sky picture of the universe."

Professor Peter Tuthill, the Director of SIfA, said, "The new premises allow researchers to collaborate in our meeting spaces, and for the first time encourage conversations to begin spontaneously."

The NSW Government provided funding support for CAASTRO, enabling it to gain $20.6 million Commonwealth grants over seven years through the ARC Centre of Excellence Program.

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