Australia and Germany collaborate in space

1 December 2009

A University of Sydney astrophysicist whose research has the potential to revolutionise the way we view and understand the universe has attracted the interest of German researchers.

Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn is a pioneer in Astrophotonics, which brings together the latest technological advances in astronomy and photonics. Bland-Hawthorn's ground- breaking research includes using optical fibres to darken the sky making even distant galaxies detectable. This clever fibre technology developed in Australia by Bland-Hawthorn has attracted a large group of researchers around him to build a strong national research base in this exciting field.

To add to this prestigious group the Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, Germany is now undertaking a research collaboration with the University of Sydney and the Anglo-Australian Observatory. This means that more recent developments (that also includes laser combs to aid the search for planets around nearby stars and complex optical circuits to allow the sizes of stars to be measured) will be able to be studied more extensively by researchers dedicated only to this ever-evolving area.

Bland-Hawthorn says that such a collaboration will have great benefits not only to Australia and Germany but also for science in general. "Photonics is the great catalyst in terms of inventing new science. Photonics has this amazing ability to step between fields and make new things happen."

Astrophotonics may hold the key to networking for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) or across arrays of space satellites moving in tandem. One of the most startling new discoveries is the development of high-performance microspectrographs that completely rewrite the rules on how we build large monolithic instruments.

To celebrate this collaboration, a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed at the University of Sydney's Nicholson Museum, this evening, Tuesday 1 December. This will be the first bi-national agreement in Astrophotonics between the University of Sydney/Anglo-Australian Observatory and Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam. Professor Fred Watson AAO will be the master of ceremonies, with speakers including the German Consul General, Hans-Guenther Gnodtke and Professor Mary O'Kane, NSW Chief Scientist, as well as Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn.

Read more on the ABC's science site.

Contact: Alison Muir

Phone: 02 9036 5194

Email: 386723192a130d362e0e3b1d191f4d034115021e5207317f273c