The year 2003 sees the biggest gathering of professional astronomers
in the world, the International Astronomical Union General Assembly,
or GA for short. A triennial meeting, in 2003 it will be in
the Sydney Convention Centre, and 2,000 astronomers are expected
to converge there from all sectors of the globe. Putting together
such a meeting takes not a little effort, and the Australian
astronomical community has been working towards this event for
5 years now. The UNSW School of Physics is playing a prominent
part in this.
Chamaeleon I star-forming Complex. Photo © European
Central to all GA’s are six Symposia addressing some
of the most active fields of research in astronomy. One of
these will be IAU Symposium number 221, ‘Star formation
at high angular resolution’, a field of particular specialty
and interest to UNSW’s Star Formation group as the mm-wave
interferometer of the Australia Telescope nears completion.
Indeed, with the construction of new interferometers across
the radio regime, of larger telescopes in the diffraction-limited
infrared bands, and the development of adaptive optics to
recover the diffraction limit at shorter wavebands, high angular
resolution provides a commonality of focus for the field.
Michael Burton is chairing the Scientific Organising Committee
for this meeting and the Star Formation group makes up most
of the Local Organising Committee.
Antarctic astronomy is a major focus of activity with the
School, as well as internationally with the development of
new facilities at the South Pole and Dome C on the Antarctic
Plateau. At the GA it will be the subject of Special Session
2, which is being organised by UNSW’s Antarctic Astronomy
We are also endeavouring to run a major public outreach event
as a lead up to the GA, using the opportunity of many of the
world’s leading astronomers coming to Australia to promote
and publicise the importance of science, and science education,
to society. “Astronomy on the Go” is the result.
This consists of events both before and during the GA. Three
outreach tours of regional NSW will be run, stopping at 4-5
centres each and running activities in schools and the local
community. These tours will be run by our own physics students,
and indeed a major goal of “Astronomy on the Go”
is to train the current generation of students with the skills
to undertake public outreach. “Astronomy on the Go”
will also feature two Science in the Pub events, and finish
with a School’s Day in Darling Harbour, to which we
hope to attract over 1,000 students for talks on the big questions
of life, the universe and everything.