100 Hours of Astronomy, a shipwreck, and the biotech industry

Media bulletins, Media releases

I’m not suggesting that the biotech industry is a shipwreck. They’re two separate stories. But medical researchers are warning the government that a weak biotech industry is a threat to delivering on the promise of medical research. Interestingly, 23% of Australia’s medical research is conducted in one federal electorate. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner is effectively the local member for medical research. Expect to hear more on this issue in the coming week.

The other stories I have for your consideration for the next few days are:

A series of global events starts today as part of 100 Hours of Astronomy.

  • Around the world in 80 telescopes is a live webcast over 24 hours. It starts Friday evening.
  • Telescopes on the street – across Australia amateur astronomers are setting up their telescopes so the public can discover the planets, stars and galaxies. There are over 60 public events.
  • And online the public are invited to take control of one of 28 international telescopes.

Finally our friends at Deakin University issued a terrific media release earlier this week about a shipwreck. It was located during a huge project to map all of Victoria’s seafloor. The research team are discovering river systems, coral gardens and much more as they explore an environment that was land less than 15,000 years ago. The shipwreck they located was the first US ship sunk in World War II.

More on each of these stories below and on our web.

Around the World in 80 telescopes

Around the world in 80 telescopes is a 24-hour live webcast during 100 Hours. Telescopes in NSW, WA, ACT and Tasmania are joining in.

It will run from 8pm Australian Eastern Daylight time on Friday 3 April. The webcast will begin with observatories on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and move west across New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, Antarctica and the Americas, finishing on the west coast of the US. All the details are posted at www.100hoursofastronomy.org.

The webcast will feature advanced astronomical observatories on earth and in space, using visible light, radio waves or other wavelengths. Observatories will be observing distant galaxies, searching for planets around other stars and studying our own solar system. You will be able to see images of the cosmos, send in questions and discover what astronomers are doing, on the spot. You can also sign up to control a telescope online, and have them take pictures for you.

Five Australian telescopes – CSIRO’s Parkes telescope, the Anglo-Australian Telescope, the Mount Pleasant radio telescope of the University of Tasmania, the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope, and the Australian International Gravitational Observatory – are taking part.

Other observatories include the Kepler Mission, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the IceCube Neutrino Telescope at the South Pole. A timetable is at http://100hoursofastronomy.org/program/75-live-24-hour-research-observatory-webcast.

Take control of a telescope in Texas, New Mexico, Spain, Canada, Australia…

Members of the public are invited to control one of 28 telescopes around the world via the web. An object you’ve always wanted to look at? This is your chance.

You can sign up to control a telescope online and take pictures or have them taken for you, all with telescopes in remote locations that can be controlled from anywhere on Earth. No astronomical knowledge is required and it’s all free! To take part, go to http://www.100hoursofastronomy.org/component/content/article/34-site-navigation/228-100-hours-of-remote-astronomy.

Telescopes on the street

View the night sky at one of dozens of star parties being held this weekend as part of 100 Hours of Astronomy.

Some of the 60 plus events are in:

Australian Capital Territory

  • Questacon

New South Wales

  • Armidale, Bradley’s Head, Albury, Cronulla, Coonabarabran, Willoughby, Mudgee, Parkes, Forbes, Dunedoo and Wellington
  • Parks and reserves including Bournda National Park, South East Forest National Park, Dorrigo National Park, Bombala Endeavour Reserve and Kur-ing-gai Chase National Park, Royal National Park, Mutton Bird Island Nature Reserve, Cattai National Park, Blue Mountains and Warrumbungle National Park
  • Kirby and Sydney Observatories, University of Western Sydney

Northern Territory

  • Gove


  • Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Hamilton Island

South Australia

  • The Heights Observatory, Black Forest.


  • Wodonga, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Wattle Park, ScienceWorks,

Western Australia

  • Fremantle, Ardross Primary, City Beach Perth, Gooseberry Hill Primary School, Gingin Observatory, Busselton


  • Launceston, Mt Canopus, Devonport

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning a telescope to the heavens. It is a celebration of the science, history and cultural impact of astronomy, and of humanity’s common heritage of the night sky. IYA is coordinated globally by the International Astronomical Union and endorsed by the United Nations.

Media contact for images and interviews for 100 Hours of Astronomy: Sue Nelson, Quick Thinking Communications 0403 343 275, sue@qtcommunications.com

More at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/astronomy/100-hours-of-astronomy-2-5-april

Full event details at www.astronomy2009.org.au

World War II wreck revealed

Deakin University press release, 1 April 2009

The MV City of Rayville, the first US vessel sunk during World War II, has been revealed in detail for the first time by Deakin University scientists.

Thanks to the state-of-the-art sonar imagery and remotely operated vehicles, the scientists have been able to take the first detailed images of the ship in its watery grave.

The vessel was sunk in 1940 by a German mine off the coast of Cape Otway in Victoria, Australia, in more than 70 metres of water.

While its approximate location has been known since 2002, the depth of its final resting place has meant obtaining information about the wreck site has been difficult.

Recent advances in technology have allowed the scientists to investigate the site remotely. Using sonar equipment, the team was able to develop detailed 3D models of the City of Rayville wreck site and collect video using a VideoRay remotely operated vehicle.

“It was very exciting to see the City of Rayville for the first time,” said Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou, Deakin researcher and the principal scientist overseeing the project.

“Beautiful marine life has colonised the exterior of the wreck with dense invertebrates including sponges and sea whips visible. The hull also provides an artificial reef, attracting and providing habitat for a vast array of marine life such as fishes,” he said.

Read the full story at http://www.deakin.edu.au/news/2009/010409shipwreck.php

For interviews contact: Vanessa Barber, Media Coordinator, Deakin Media Unit, (03) 52271301, 0488 292 644.

Video footage of the City of Rayville wreck is available.

Global economic crisis threatens Australia’s Biotech

Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes press release, 30 March 2009

The global economic crisis is threatening Australia’s ability to turn medical research into products that improve lives and create high value jobs, according to the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI). Urgent government action is needed to bridge the gap between research and application. Without it, the next generation of innovation may be lost to the community.

“The Federal Government’s recent announcement of $83 million in venture capital is an important step in protecting innovation. But more government investment is urgently needed to ensure that Australia’s vibrant biotech community survives the crisis and is ready to take up the next generation of medical research discoveries, and if Australia, as a smart country, is to embrace biotech in the same way that Finland has done, for example, with telecommunications”1 says Professor Robert Graham, President of AAMRI.

“Biotechnology not only has much greater economic potential than telecommunications, it profoundly impacts peoples lives and well being. To foster innovation, funds need to be made available directly to the scientists responsible for the discoveries that fuel our burgeoning biotech industry, and not be limited only to established companies with 100 or more employees”, he continued.

Read the full release online at http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/other/biotech-crisis

Further information: Vidya Muthanna, Communications Officer, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Ph: (02) 92958715 or 0409393686, v.muthanna@victorchang.edu.au