An Overview of Australian Astronomical Surveys

On April 15, 2015, Dr. Michael Ireland from Australian National University gave a lecture at NAOC that introduced Australian efforts at conducting astronomical surveys and how these efforts can be linked to other research programs. He first described the FunnelWeb project that uses the UK Schmidt telescope (UKST) and the TAIPAN facility. The TAIPAN facility incorporates an advanced spectrograph with novel moveable spectral fibers that can simultaneously acquire data from different targets, yielding a high data acquisition rate. He emphasized that the FunnelWeb research program complements the ongoing spectral survey that is being conducted with LAMOST and that data collected with these surveys can be applied to the fields of Galactic archeology, extrasolar planets, stellar metallicity and asteroseismology. Dr. Ireland discussed how UKST was previously used for the 6dFGS and RAVE surveys and it has a novel robotic apparatus that automatically drills holes for spectral fibers. He also described a way of quickly moving spectral fibers during observations that was developed at UKST called Starbugs. According to Dr. Ireland, the Starbugs system relies on partially-inflating vacuum technology such that the fibers can maneuver themselves across the focal plane of the UKST, with the ability to rearrange their positions within several minutes. This ability to quickly rearrange the spectral fibers contributes to the fast data acquisition ability needed for astronomical surveys. Dr. Ireland continued by explaining how survey data taken with FunnelWeb and LAMOST can provide input catalogs and complementary spectroscopic data for upcoming missions like TESS, GAIA and JWST.

During his lecture, Dr. Ireland also described a new effort by Australian National University and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to offer a joint Ph.D. program, where students would take classes for one year at CAS then travel to Australian National University for further study and research opportunities. He hopes that this program will be established in the near future so that students from CAS can join in these and related research efforts based at Australian National University.


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