Siding Spring Observatory Update

Photo taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/1234abcd/4842609250/

Photo taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/1234abcd/4842609250/

Siding Spring Observatory Update
Updated 4.25pm, Wednesday 23 January 2013
For footage of the press conference held on January 14th, please visit the ANU YouTube channel.

ANU and AAO announce that the suspension of access to the Siding Spring Observatory, and all associated observing activities, will be extended until 18 February 2013.

The priority of the University remains the wellbeing of our staff and the safety of the site. The staff emergency relief fund remains open to enable members of the ANU community to provide support for affected staff and their families. More than $15,000 has been raised so far. Contributions can be made to the fund from this link.

Now that the danger from fire has passed, an environmental assessment of the Siding Spring Observatory site is being carried out.

There are still residual hazards that affect the safety of the site, including the danger of falling trees, land-slips and potentially hazardous materials.

Specialist contractors are working this week and into next week to ensure the safety of the site before staff return to the telescopes.

Once the site has been made safe for staff, we anticipate a two to three week period during which insurance loss assessors will inspect the site and facilities, and staff will complete essential cleaning and repairs, assessing the telescopes, instruments and systems and working to return the observatory to full operation.

Observing will begin again once all systems are ready and available, and staff are in a position to provide the necessary support.

We currently forecast that this will be on or around 18 February, but at present this date is provisional – we will be continuing to advise all involved as the situation evolves.

Note that until the site is formally declared open again for observing, only specifically authorised access to the site will be permitted. This applies to all ANU, AAO and other observatory staff as well as all visitors.

Because of the destruction of the Lodge there will need to be interim arrangements for accommodating observers and technical staff visiting the site; these will also be advised in due course.


Information for staff and students
Last updated 4.30pm Friday 18 January 2013

Weather conditions in the coming days may increase the threat of bushfires in the ACT and surrounding regions. It’s timely to check your emergency mobile details are correctly registered on HORUS/ISIS to ensure you receive any emergency SMS messages from the University. Instructions for registering an emergency mobile number are included at the bottom of the page.

The current fire current fire danger rating in the ACT is SEVERE and we have a TOTAL FIRE BAN in place. Details of rules during a TOTAL FIRE BAN can be found here <http://esa.act.gov.au/community-information/bushfires/total-fire-bans/>.

If the Fire Danger Rating in the ACT changes to CATASTROPHIC we will close Mt Stromlo, Spring Valley Farm and the Paleomagnetic Laboratory at Black Mountain.

If there are any closures affecting the Acton Campus you will be advised via email and the University’s SMS Emergency system.

Updates will also be posted on the University’s home page – www.anu.edu.au.

All staff should prepare themselves for possible University evacuations. We ask that you also remain extremely vigilant at all times, and in particular to the risk of falling branches as a consequence of high winds.

For the latest fire information please listen to local radio station ABC 666 and monitor www.esa.act.gov.au.

Please check back for regular updates.


Message from the Vice-Chancellor:
3.45pm Thursday 17 January 2013

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Members of our community and their families have been affected by the Wambelong fire that damaged the Siding Spring Observatory and continues to burn near Coonabarabran. For many in our community, it brings back terrible memories of the 2003 fires that caused so much damage to Canberra and Mt Stromlo.

Along with the Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Matthew Colless, counselling and human resources staff, I met yesterday in Coonabarabran with affected ANU staff and their families, a number of whom have lost their homes.

The University’s priority at the moment is the wellbeing of our staff and the safety of the site. The Observatory will remain closed for the next two weeks.

The University has established a staff emergency relief fund to enable members of the ANU community to provide support for affected staff and their families. You can contribute to the fund from this link. University House, with the generous support of its suppliers, is hosting a Bushfire Appeal Dinner next Friday evening, 25 January. Details are posted on the University House website.

The University will also make a contribution of $25,000 to the Warrumbungle Shire Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal in recognition of the local community’s long and supportive relationship with the Observatory.

I know that the wishes and support of the ANU community are much appreciated by our colleagues and their families affected by the fires.

Professor Ian Young AO

Siding Spring Observatory (SSO), in the Warrumbungle Mountains near Coonabarabran, NSW, is Australia’s premier optical and infrared observatory.

The observatory site is owned and operated by The Australian National University and is home to all the research telescopes of the university. SSO also hosts a growing number of other national and international facilities, with more telescopes planned to be built and commissioned between now and 2015. The telescopes at the site include the 3.9m diameter Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), the largest optical telescope in Australia.

Instructions for adding an Emergency Mobile

Log onto HORUS/ISIS using your University ID and password

Click on “Personal information summary” under ‘Personal Information’

Under the “phone numbers” box, click the button that says “Change phone numbers”

Click the button that says “Add a phone number”

From the drop down list, choose “Emergency Mobile” and enter mobile number, then save

Filed under: ANU, Staff, Students


Updated:  25 March 2013/ Responsible Officer:  Director, SCAPA/ Page Contact:  Director, SCAPA