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Theory in Australia’s Astronomical Facilities. Facilities WG Meeting 2005 Decadal Review. Integration. Deeply involved throughout life cycle of major observational facilities/instruments Before construction What do we really want to build? Science case in Aust context

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theory in australia s astronomical facilities

Theory in Australia’s Astronomical Facilities

Facilities WG Meeting

2005 Decadal Review


Deeply involved throughout life cycle of major observational facilities/instruments

Before construction

  • What do we really want to build?
  • Science case in Aust context

After construction

  • Maximise scientific impact
  • Interpret data & fertilise “big” ideas

Before construction

  • Theory routinely involved in inspiring science drivers and designs of major facilities
  • NGST (Loeb, Blandford), Chandra (Bildsten)

After construction

  • Theorists and observers live side-by-side in facility-related science institutes
  • STScI, ESO (counterexample: NRAO)
past decade case studies
Past Decade: Case Studies
  • mm ATCA:- small natural community doing star formation/ISM science in Aust
  • Gemini:- big physics questions? “Few” nights → small, smart, physics-driven experiments
  • 2dF:- brilliant project… but disproportionate theoretical interpretation overseas

Engineering + science drivers in tandem

next decade opportunities i
Next Decade: Opportunities I


  • Epoch of reionisation (Wyithe, Gibson)
  • ISM (Melrose, Macquart, Wardle)
  • Pulsars (Melatos, Melrose, Luo)
  • AGN (Bicknell, Donea, Kuncic, Sutherland)


  • Planets (Mardling, Maddison, Sackett, Asplund,
  • Galaxy evolution (Bekki, Lewis, Gibson, Dopita, Sutherland, Wyithe)
next decade opportunities ii
Next Decade: Opportunities II

mm ATCA:

  • Star formation (Wardle, Murray, Maddison)


  • Gravitational wave source astrophysics (Scott, Lun, Levin, Melatos)


  • Particle astrophysics (Protheroe, Donea, Volkas)

Before construction

  • Approximately zero – WG volunteers!

After construction

  • Sensible fraction of science component of facility/instrument operating budget
  • ATNF science/total ≈18 / 145
  • Bolton & other fellowships open to theorists
challenge for decadal review
Challenge for Decadal Review

Secure ongoing operational & science funding hand-in-hand with funds for capital facilities

  • Structural contradiction at present
  • “Beefed up” ATNF model (STScI, ESO)
  • CoEs nice but too small – what % needed to secure science payoff from a $100M+ facility?
computational astrophysics
Computational Astrophysics
  • Resources wish-list – still needs to be done
  • Some incorporation into national facilities
  • APAC model financially smart (community does not bear maintenance and depreciation)
  • Grid 3 – disburse funds to develop software & services, then APAC houses it

Special theory needs

  • Theory portal in Aust Virtual Observatory
  • “Career death” for coders (“instrument builders”)
special contributions needs
Special Contributions & Needs

Proactive vs reactive

  • Theory not just the “handmaiden of data” – predictive role in advance of data → inspire science goals for new instruments & facilities


  • Branding – “PhD Australia” – consistent (astro)physics knowledge across Aust PhDs
  • Remote learning (Access Grid), “Harley Wood” schools → build “knowledge resources”
specific proposal astro school
Specific Proposal: Astro School
  • “Residential” and “by correspondence”
  • Take-away “what you need to know” notes, e.g. refs to chapters in “classic texts”
  • Contact emails for Aust experts in subfields
  • Structure around big questions?
  • Cosmology (CMB theory), galaxy evolution (grav & fluid dynamics), star and planet formation (radiative transfer, MHD), high-energy astrophysics (shocks, accretion, jets)
  • Cost = $100k preparing materials + $50k p.a. ?