New DirectorThe Anglo-Australian Observatory, which operates the largest optical
telescope in Australia, is to have a new Director: Dr. Matthew Colless,
currently a Senior Fellow of the Research School of Astronomy and
Astrophysics at the Australian National University.

The AAO is a research facility for UK and Australian astronomers, funded by
the UK and Australian Governments. It operates the 3.9-m Anglo-Australian
Telescope and the 1.2-m UK Schmidt telescope, both sited at Siding Spring
Observatory in eastern Australia.

Dr. Colless will take up the Sydney-based appointment in January 2004 for an
initial term of five years. He succeeds former AAO Director Professor Brian
Boyle, who moved to the CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility in July.

During 1997-2001 Dr. Colless was co-leader (with Dr. John Peacock of the
University of Edinburgh) of the largest project ever carried out with the
Anglo-Australian Telescope – the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey. This
international collaboration, involving more than 30 scientists from 11
institutions, has been described by Professor Carlos Frenk of the University
of Durham (UK), as “undoubtedly Australia’s largest contribution to
astronomical research ever.”

The survey determined the positions in space of more than 220,000 galaxies,
giving us the best picture to date of how galaxies are distributed
throughout the Universe. This information was then used to refine estimates
of the Universe’s mass and density and its relative amounts of baryonic
(‘normal’) matter, ‘dark matter’, and the recently discovered ‘dark energy’.

Dr. Colless’s appointment was welcomed by Professor Ian Halliday, Chief
Executive, Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), who
said, “Dr. Colless has great experience and expertise in astronomy. I am
confident that his skills will be of great value to the Anglo-Australian

Dr. Colless received his undergraduate degree from the University of Sydney
and his PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK). He held positions at the
University of Durham (UK), Kitt Peak National Observatory (USA) and the
University of Cambridge (UK) before joining the Australian National
University in 1993.

Dr. Colless has published more than 110 papers in astronomy. In 2001 he was
ranked by the information-management organisation ISI as one of the most
highly cited Australian scientists, with seven high-impact papers published
during 1981-1998.

On accepting his appointment to the AAO, Dr. Colless said that leading the
organisation would be both “a challenge and a pleasure”.

“It will be a challenge because astronomy is a fast-changing field driven by
rapid technological advances, and a pleasure because the AAO has outstanding
staff and facilities working at the forefront of science and technology,” he

“The AAO of the future will continue to support world-leading research by
Australian and British astronomers, both by using its own telescopes in
Australia and by building advanced astronomical instruments for new large
telescopes around the world.”


Dr. Matthew Colless
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, ANU
Tel: +61-2-6125-8030




Dr. Matthew Colless (Photo courtesy Dr. Colless)

The Anglo-Australian Telescope dome at Siding Spring Observatory in New South
Wales, with the dome of the 1.2-m UK Schmidt telescope in the background.
Photo: David Malin.

464K version (709 x 565 pixels)

1.6 MB version (1417 x 1129 pixels)

5.4 MB version (2669 x 2126 pixels)

A gallery of images of the 2dF instrument on the Anglo-Australian Telescope

A visualisation of data from the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey. Visualisation:
Paul Bourke, Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne
University of Technology. (216K: 1280 x 1024 pixels)