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February 01, 2003— Ottawa, Ontario


NRC's President, Dr. Arthur Carty, has received positive response from astronomers in several countries following his speech to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Seattle, Washington last month in which he called for the development of a world plan in astronomy within a decade. Dr. Carty was the keynote speaker at the policy session of the 201st meeting of the AAS which attracts thousands of scientists from across North American and abroad.

"I believe that the development and expression of a collaborative global plan for astronomy would draw upon previously untapped creative forces that could combine to change the way we look at ourselves and our world," said Dr. Carty.

While every field of science demands international cooperation, astronomy provides a unique venue for cooperation both in the broad and seemingly intractable mysteries about our universe and the development of new facilities to explore them. International collaborations in astronomy have triggered a new generation of international observatory facilities both on earth, such as the Gemini Telescopes, and in orbit, such as Far Ultraviolet Explorer Satellite. Canada, and NRC, has played a major role in many of these efforts.

"We are, indeed, a smaller country, but we have made our mark on astronomy and the technologies that underpin it. As a nation, we are firmly committed to international collaboration and have demonstrated a determination to deliver on our long-term commitments," said Dr. Carty.

Recent contributions by the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (NRC-HIA) have included the development of adaptive optics for the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. NRC-HIA also led an international project team in the design and construction of the highly successful Gemini-Multi-Object Spectrograph, used to capture a first light image of the so-called "Perfect Spiral Galaxy" in Pisces. Such projects illustrate NRC's overall commitment to international collaboration.

International collaborations in astronomy have also produced substantial economic benefits. Not only has astronomy and astrophysics become a major industry, in which Canada is a key player, technologies used in the field have had a significant impact elsewhere. Research has created diverse commercial opportunities including innovative structural engineering (large telescopes, enclosures, antennae), data archiving management and mining, optical coatings and precision instrumentation (astronomy, ophthalmology).

The groundwork has been laid for a new era of astronomical research marked by major new facilities, often called World Observatories. A world long-range plan addressing the possibility of such facilities would represent the next logical step the international collaboration process, a process in which NRC has been a key player.

NRC is committed to collaboration in many disciplines and with many international bodies. In 2001-2002, NRC was engaged in over 350 formal international collaborative agreements with hundreds of different partners from the private, public and university sectors. The value of these international agreements reached $146 million.

Find out more about NRC's work in astronomy.

Globular Star Cluster, Messier 5. The hundreds of thousands of stars in this cluster are kept together by their mutual gravitational attraction. Such clusters are the oldest objects whose age astronomers can measure reliably.

"Dr. Carty's idea for world planning in astronomy is one I very much like and think would be an initiative in which Canada could play a valuable role"
said Dr. Gretchen Harris, President of the Canadian Astronomical Society.
"Indeed, with the long range plan for astronomy and other exercises, Canadian astronomers are already showing leadership both in this country and internationally."

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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