Macquarie University Astronomy, Astrophysics and Astrophotonics Research Centre

Project: Other


The MQAAAstro Research Centre at Macquarie University has established itself as one of the fastest-growing centres of astronomy research excellence in Australia. MQAAAstro refereed publications have doubled every three years, outpacing comparable growth in the sector nationwide. Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ranked Macquarie’s ‘Astronomical and Space Sciences’ capabilities as ‘ERA 4: Above World Standard’ in 2010, rising to the highest bracket of ‘ERA 5: Well Above World Standard’ in 2012 (the only institution in New South Wales to achieve this), 2015, and 2018. This is reflected in external funding success, with $17M awarded since 2010 ($7M with MQAAAstro leading) across DP, LIEF, DECRA and FT schemes alone.

MQAAAstro has also gained excellent public visibility through close collaboration with the Association for Astronomy (AfA), the outreach arm of Macquarie’s astronomy group, and the integration of teaching, outreach and research using the unique observatory facilities on campus. The annual ‘Astronomy Open Night’ is now a Tier 1 university event, bringing 2,000 members of the public to Macquarie campus, and providing a powerful platform for showcasing our research achievements.

The national astronomy landscape has recently undergone a profound change. In 2017 the Government redirected funding from the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) into a $120M 10-year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory, giving access to giant telescopes in Chile, and opening a new market for building instrumentation. Macquarie led a successful bid to host the AAO and head a consortium of three universities (Macquarie, Sydney and ANU), forming a new NCRIS-funded ‘national capability’ in astronomy instrumentation.

Here we propose to combine the success of MQAAAstro with the ‘AAO-MQ’ group, as well as the AfA, forming a new, integrated MQAAAstro research centre, with outstanding opportunities to expand the reach of Macquarie astronomy into instrumentation and technology development, forging new national and international collaborations, and building meaningful relationships with the public and industry alike.

The overarching questions in Astronomy have been the same since the dawn of time. Where do we come from? How did the Universe start and how did the galaxies and stars in it form and evolve? How did Earth form and when will it be destroyed? Are there other worlds similar to our own, maybe even bearing life? To answer these questions Astronomers have developed a web of more focused questions. Of these, MQAAAstro has concentrated on four classes:

1. How did galaxies form and why do they exhibit so much variety?
2. How do stars in galaxies form and synthesise the elements of life?
3. How do planets form around nascent stars? How often do they bear life?
4. What technological development can allow us to answer the questions above?

MQAAAstro has consistently delivered the top ERA ranking over its lifetime (2012, 2015, 2018), and is one of the most internationally collaborative research groups at Macquarie. Our newest department, AAO-MQ is also an established global brand with a decades-long record for securing high-value contracts with top-flight observatories. The AAO-MQ instrumentation innovation powerhouse meshed with MQAAAstro’s established research capacity creates a unique combination of engineering and science exploration that few groups worldwide can claim. Moreover, this exists in an integrated environment
Effective start/end date1/01/2031/12/22