A new icon of Australian science is to be developed by the ANU, with today’s
release of plans for the reconstruction of Mt Stromlo Observatory.

Bushfires in January destroyed more than $40 million worth of facilities and
equipment at the Observatory, including five telescopes, workshops, an important
heritage building and seven houses.

Mt Stromlo will resume its mantle as the home of Australian astronomy through
the planned redevelopment, which includes the placement of two telescopes on
Mount Stromlo and one at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran,
reconstruction of heritage buildings and enhanced viewing facilities for the
public, including a new virtual reality theatre.

The redevelopment will ensure Mt Stromlo remains a world-class astronomy
research and education facility, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb said.
Funding for the redevelopment, including insurance claims, is yet to be
finalised, so the plan allows for staged construction.

"Mt Stromlo is not just an icon of Australian science, it is the workplace of
number of the world’s leading researchers," Professor Chubb said.

"The January fires devastated the observatory, but it is time to look ahead to
the new Stromlo.

"It is clear that a site with such heritage, renowned as a powerhouse of
research and innovation around the world, must be re-equipped with world-class
facilities. The University, the International scientific community and the
Australian public would not and could not accept a second-class Stromlo."

The planned redevelopment includes:

* The Advanced Instruments and Engineering Facility, which will replace the
workshops destroyed in the blaze, offering expanded design and manufacture
capabilities for precision optical instruments and a research and development
program focusing on Extremely Large Telescopes

* A new robotically-controlled two-metre telescope, the Phoenix

* The world’s fastest sky-mapping telescope, the Skymapper, to be built at the
ANU Siding Spring Observatory, but controlled from Mt Stromlo through a
broadband link

* Restoration of the historic 1924 Admin building, to house a rebuilt library
and offices

* Restoration of the historic 23cm Oddie Telescope

* Housing for Staff and Students

* A new virtual reality theatre, allowing visitors to fly through our universe in 3D

The Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Professor
Penny Sackett, said Mt Stromlo had opened the eyes of tens of thousands of
Australians to science and served as a vital resource to international astronomy
for decades — and would continue to play this role in future.

"The fires destroyed much of our infrastructure, but left our most important
asset intact — our people," Professor Sackett said.

"The day after fires, we committed to restoring Stromlo and its network of
facilities as a pillar of Australian science.

"Three weeks after the fires, our staff were back at work on the mountain,
working in two office buildings which were largely undamaged.

"We cannot and we should not reconstruct a carbon copy of the old Stromlo. This
new design is overwhelmingly oriented around meeting the needs of staff,
students and visitors — while also ensuring Stromlo retains its status as an
internationally important observatory.

"For decades, Stromlo and Siding Spring have been operated as integrated
observatories, combining the virtues of a control base close to ANU, close to
the nation’s capital and accessible to the community with a primary observation
base offering optimal astronomical and climatic conditions.

"The new design retains telescopes and the research hub at Stromlo, but provides
even stronger integration with the University’s Siding Spring resources,
ultimately providing a more powerful research facility for Australia."

Further details on the redevelopment plans for Mt Stromlo are available in three
fact sheets which follow:

* Heritage
* Science
* Innovation

An artist’s impression of plans for Stromlo is available from the ANU Media Office.