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Australia's Eye On The Skies: 10-Year Deal Signed With European Southern Observatory

Our love affair with space will continue.

11/07/2017 12:36 PM AEST | Updated 01/09/2017 11:42 AM AEST
Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images
Australian science has recieved a leg up in the form of a 10-year agreement with the European Space observatory.

Australia's keen scientific eye for outer space looks likely to remain on the cosmos, with the federal government signing an agreement to guarantee our space boffins long-term access to European telescopes.

The federal government will invest $129 million over 10 years in the partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and agreement aimed at answering calls from the Australian astronomy community for long-term access to large optical-infrared telescopes, Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos said in a statement.

The partnership, commencing in 2018, will allow Australian astronomers to use the 8‑metre telescopes at ESO's La Silla and Paranal Observatories in the Atacama Mountains of Chile, among the world's best sites for optical astronomy.

Keep watching the skies!

Science Photo Library - NASA
Voyager 2 image of Great Red Spot and south equatorial belt.

  • Jupiter's big red spot will be studied in detail for the first time thanks to the Juno probe passing within 9000 km/h of the gigantic gas planet;
  • It's the closest humans have been to the centuries-old giant storm;
  • Juno's seventh flyby mission, the tennis court sized space craft can reach a maximum speed of about 265,000 km/h

The news has excited astrophysicists.

"I wish every day was like this. We just need an asteroid to fly by and my day is set," Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker told the ABC.

"Australians helped discover 95 percent of the universe. Ninety-five percent of everything we know in the universe was discovered by Australians," he said.

"This agreement will last for at least 10 years and it will allow us to stay at the forefront of space research and keep us as one of the best countries for space and innovation."

Australia and Space: A Love Affair

Bloomberg via Getty Images
The sun shines through the receiving dish of the Parkes Observatory radio telescope, operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

  • Australia has been a been a vital part of NASA's operations since 1957, when tracking stations were first used in Woomera NSW;
  • An Australian team are currently working on the New Horizon mission -- a probe currently exploring the outer Solar System;
  • The Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station received the footage of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. They transmitted it to the world for eight minutes;
  • Parkes Observatory, NSW -- the observatory was enlisted to help track the stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft;
  • Canberra's Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), a NASA outpost, is run by CSIRO and had primary responsibility for landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.
Source: National Geographic.

The Director General of ESO, Professor Tim de Zeeuw, said in a statement the collaboration would lead to fundamental new advances in science and technology that neither could hope to achieve alone.

"Australia has a long and rich history of internationally acclaimed astronomical research. The already very active and successful astronomical community will undoubtedly thrive with long-term access to ESO's cutting-edge facilities," Prof. de Zeeuw said.

"Australia's expertise in astronomical technology, including advanced adaptive optics and fibre-optics, is ideally matched with ESO's instrumentation programme."

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