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AAO Press Releases

Wednesday, 20 October 1993

Prestigious engineering award for the AAO

On Friday 8 October the Sydney Division of the Institution of Engineers, Australia granted two awards, including the prestigious Bradfield Award, to engineers and scientists at the Anglo-Australian Observatory for IRIS, one of the new instruments built for use on the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

There were about 80 nominations for awards in 13 categories and IRIS won the Engineering Excellence Award under the research category. Awards in other categories were given to the Opera House car park and the Mt Piper power station.

Each winning project in these 13 categories was then considered by a committee of the Institution for the Bradfield Award, the Sydney Division's highest accolade. IRIS won this top prize.

IRIS allows astronomers to detect energy from stars and galaxies at infrared wavelengths in ways never before possible. Since its completion in early 1991, IRIS has already made many startling discoveries, including spectacular jets in the Orion Nebula.

Staff at the Observatory used the latest in detector technology, together with innovative engineering, in the design and construction of the instrument. In announcing the awards the Institution described IRIS as "the pinnacle of engineering achievement". It was particularly highly regarded because it merged together several different areas of engineering.

In accepting the engineering awards Dr David Allen, of the AAO, commented:

"I feel a sham standing here, because I'm no engineer. I'm a scientist - an astronomer. I'm here because I had a dream. I dreamt that we could take the newest technology in infrared detectors from the USA and build it into a world-class instrument for astronomy. That dream became a reality because of an outstanding team of engineers and technicians. It was exciting watching IRIS take shape. It's been exciting using it to make new discoveries, and seeing other astronomers from Australia and around the world do the same. And now it will be exciting to take this award back to the team."

Because of its success IRIS will now be considered by the Institution of Engineers in its nation-wide competition.

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© Anglo-Australian Observatory 2004, PO Box 296, Epping NSW 1710 Australia

Roger Bell
01 Jan 1998