The southern Gemini 8m telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile.
(right) Inside the Gemini South dome, with the telescope looking
In 2001, the
School of Physics became host to the Australian Gemini Project Office.
This was a result of Professor Warrick Couch, from the Department
of Astrophysics, being appointed to the position of Australian Gemini
under the management of the Project Scientist, is responsible for
overseeing and coordinating Australias involvement in the
International Gemini Project a collaboration between the
USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Australia
to build and operate twin 8-metre optical/infrared telescopes: one
on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and the other on Cerro Pachon in Chile. These
telescopes are designed to provide sub-tenth of an arcsecond imagery
(achievable up until now only from space) through the combination
of being located at superb sites and the use of state-of-the-art
adaptive optics techniques. The telescopes are also optimised for
superior infrared performance. As such, they will be at the scientific
forefront in tackling a diversity of astrophysical problems ranging
from planetary and stellar studies to galactic star formation in
the very early universe.
of Gemini to the Australian astronomical community and the opportunities
it brings to build the high-tech, multi-million dollar instruments
that are planned for the telescopes, was recognised by the Australian
Government in 2001 when it awarded $14.9 million from its Major
National Research Facilties Fund to increase Australian access to
Gemini. The Australian Gemini Office is now heavily involved in
the process of negotiating this increase, with the goal of ultimately
doubling the ~18 nights per year that Australian astronomers currently
enjoy on each of the Gemini telescopes.