The following statement was circulated to ASA members on 10 December 2012 by Prof. Stuart Wyithe, AAL non-executive director and Australian representative to the Gemini Board.
You may have seen the recent announcement on Gemini Board resolutions regarding the Gemini partnership beyond 2015. The purpose of this email is to provide some brief background for this development.
In short, Australia is a member of the Gemini partnership whose current agreement concludes at the end of 2015. An assessment point was conducted during the most recent Gemini Board meeting in November, where partner countries were asked to commit to a continued Gemini partnership covering the years 2016-2018. Australia was unable to do so.
Australia's position on continued involvement in Gemini beyond the current agreement is influenced by two primary factors. Firstly, the Mid-Term Review of the Australian Astronomy Decadal plan specifies membership of ESO as the highest priority for gaining access to large optical telescopes. Secondly, investment in Australian national access to research infrastructure in the near future will be via the Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (CRIS), which is only available for funding of infrastructure operations up until the end of 2014. Thus there is currently no identifiable funding for continuing in a post 2015 Gemini partnership.
Australian participation in the Gemini partnership is managed through Astronomy Australia Ltd. (AAL), and the Gemini assessment point was discussed during the most recent AAL AGM on November 2 (with input from AAL's Optical Telescopes Advisory Committee). The AAL member representatives endorsed the Australian Gemini Board member to declare that at this time Australia is unable to commit to continued membership of the Gemini partnership post-2015. This declaration by Australia at the Gemini partnership assessment point has triggered the announcement published on the Gemini website today.
Over the last decade Australian astronomers have made great contributions to Gemini, both technically and scientifically, and the current situation is regrettable. It should be noted that Australia has not withdrawn from Gemini, and that AAL will continue to explore ways of facilitating the option for continued Australian involvement with Gemini in the future.
The 2012 Australian Gemini and Magellan Science Symposium
AusGO and AAL hosted the 2012 Australian Gemini and Magellan Science Symposium on 22-23 October 2012 at Swinburne University of Technology. The symposium featured Australian-led research using Gemini and Magellan, as well as exploring future instrumentation and access to Gemini and Magellan.
AusGO Strategic Plan
The AusGO Strategic Plan 2012-2015 was released on 28 August 2012.
The 2011 AusGO/AAO Observational Techniques Workshop
From 30 Aug to 2 Sep 2011, AusGO and the AAO ran an optical/IR observational techniques and data reduction workshop attended by over 50 students and early-career researchers. Presentations from this workshop are now available. AusGO plans to hold the next such workshop in 2013.
The withdrawal of the UK from the Gemini partnership after 2013 requires a reduction in the Gemini budget for operations and maintenance. Over the past six months, the Gemini Observatory has worked with the Gemini Board to develop a transition plan that accomplishes this reduction and maintains essential service to the Gemini partners. The Gemini Board has reviewed and discussed this plan and is now requesting public comment. Larry Ramsey, Chair of the Gemini Board has stated "The Gemini Board of Directors has worked with the observatory leadership since this last March on several iterations of this Transition Plan. While some aspects in this plan may well change, the Board feels it is appropriate at this time to make it public in the interest of transparency and informing the Gemini partner communities."
Click here to download a copy of the Transition Plan.
Community input is desired. AURA, the Gemini Observatory, and the Gemini Board will take all comments into consideration in finalising the long range plan for Gemini. Please submit comments by e-mail to the Australian Gemini Board member Prof. Peter Quinn (peter.quinn -@- uwa.edu.au), with a copy to the Australian Gemini Scientist Dr Stuart Ryder (ausgo -@- aao.gov.au), by 15 October 2010.
Gemini User Forums
The Australian Gemini Office is pleased to be hosting a visit to Australia by two senior staff of the Gemini Observatory: Dr Andy Adamson, the Associate Director of Science Operations, and Dr Eric Tollestrup, the Associate Director of Instrument Development. They will be participating in a series of Gemini User Forums around the country, presenting the transition plan for Gemini operations leading up to the UK withdrawal at the end of 2012, and the current status and future plans for instrumentation. Three user forums are scheduled as follows:
- Mon 20 Sep 2010, 1:30-3:30pm, Australian Astronomical Observatory conference room. Contact: Stuart Ryder (sdr -@- aao.gov.au)
- Wed 22 Sep 2010, 1:30-3:30pm, Duffield Lecture Theatre, Mt Stromlo Observatory. Contact: Christopher Onken (onken -@- mso.anu.edu.au)
- Thu 23 Sep 2010, 1:30-3:30pm, VR Theatre, Swinburne University Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. Contact: Karl Glazebrook (karl -@- astro.swin.edu.au)
For those unable to attend these forums in person, teleconference/videoconference arrangements will be available for the AAO event - please contact Stuart Ryder if you wish to participate. There will be plenty of time for discussion afterwards, and refreshments will be provided.
Following the ANSOC-funded extension of Australia's access to the twin Magellan 6.5m telescopes in Chile up to mid-2011, the AAO set out to recruit two new Magellan Fellows to replace David Floyd who has relocated from Chile to the University of Melbourne, and Ricardo Covarrubias who will relocate to the AAO in December 2009. Dr Francesco Di Mille and Dr Shane Walsh started their Magellan Fellowships in August 2009. They will be on secondment to the Carnegie Observatories in La Serena, Chile for the next two years, performing support duties for visiting observers at the Magellan telescopes and carrying out self-directed astronomical research. Their third and final year will be spent doing research full-time at an Australian institute of their choice.
Francesco obtained his PhD in astronomy at the University of Padua in Italy in 2007, and is on leave as resident astronomer at the Asiago Observatory in Italy. His research interests include active galactic nuclei, and studying the physical conditions and motions of gas around the AGN using optical integral field spectroscopy. He is also involved in searches for extragalactic novae. In his final year Francesco will be based at the University of Sydney working closely with Prof. Joss Bland-Hawthorn.
Shane obtained his PhD in astronomy from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU in 2008. During his PhD, Shane discovered a new dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way called Bootes II by sifting through data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. He plans to use Magellan to follow up new candidate dwarf galaxies which emerge from the SkyMapper surveys at Siding Spring. In his final year Shane will be hosted by the new Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy at Curtin University in Perth working with Prof. Steven Tingay.
The Australian Gemini Office is pleased to announce an informal workshop entitled Demystifying the Gemini Queue with Gemini Science Fellow Dr Henry Lee, who is currently visiting Australia from the Gemini South Observatory in La Serena, Chile. He will cover the following topics, amongst others:
- How the Gemini queue works
- Using Observing Condition constraints to your advantage
- Frequently-made mistakes in Phase 2 preparation
The format will be a presentation by Henry followed by a moderated question and answer session. Refreshments will be provided.
The workshop will be held at the AAO on Monday June 29, from 2:00-4:00pm in the conference room. Those who cannot attend in person will be able to participate via video conference; please contact Simon O'Toole (otoole -@- aao.gov.au) to make further arrangements. We encourage all Gemini users and prospective users to make use of this valuable opportunity!
Australian Gemini Office, ausgo -@- aao.gov.au