Staff and students from UNSW’s Department
The School’s Department of Astrophysics has been ranked in
the world’s top one per cent of space science institutions
by the international ranking agency, ISI Essential Science Indicators.
ESI is a web-based compilation of indicators to assess and rank
the global research performance of scientists, journals, universities
and nations. Aimed at researchers and policymakers, ESI analyses
over ten million journal articles from over 8,500 indexed journals
in 22 fields of scientific endeavour.
The Department’s top ranking is based on the publication
of 372 journal papers that were cited 6,652 times in the past 10
years. ESI updates its rankings bimonthly and publishes them on
the website http://in-cites.com/
Over the past 15 years, astrophysics has grown to become one of
the three main focus areas of the School of Physics. Supported mainly
through external research grants, there are now over 30 people working
in this area in various capacities.
The rapid rise in UNSW’s citation success in Space Science
is the result of several factors, including the development of outstanding
new facilities such as the “2dF” instrument on the Anglo
Australian Telescope, which has enabled Warrick Couch and his colleagues
to make major breakthroughs in the study of the large-scale structure
of the Universe.
Australia is very well served with top-class national facilities
in both radio and optical/infrared astronomy. In addition, by participating
in major international facilities such as the Gemini Observatory,
Australian astronomers are able to access the very best telescopes
and instruments around the world. UNSW is particularly fortunate
in having its own telescopes at Siding Spring, and also operates
the Mopra telescope (currently the largest millimetre-wave telescope
in the Southern Hemisphere) in cooperation with CSIRO.
Fifty years ago, Australia’s reputation in astronomy and
astrophysics grew partly out of the competitive advantage of being
one of the few technologically advanced nations in the Southern
Hemisphere. With other countries now taking advantage of the rich
Southern Hemisphere skies, Australia must look at what else it has
to offer. Two things come immediately to mind – the vast,
radio-quiet areas of sparse population density ideal for construction
of future radio telescopes, and the ready access to the exceptional
optical/infrared observing sites on the high plateau of Antarctica
just a few flying hours from Sydney.
John Storey and Dan Gaffney