What does an Astronomer-in-Charge do?

Management: The mission of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Coonabarabran is to provide world-class observing facilities for visiting astronomers from Australia and overseas. Fred Watson's role is to help to maintain the scientific productivity of the AAO's two telescopes, and ensure that they remain centres of excellence in astronomy. The task includes protecting the Observatory's night sky from light pollution, and long-term strategic planning with the Director and Board of the AAO.

Fred is also Project Manager for the international RAVE radial velocity survey of more than a million stars, using the UK Schmidt Telescope. Using the robotic 6dF instrument, UK Schmidt Telescope observers spend each clear night gathering hundreds of star spectra, which are then transferred to centres in Europe for analysis and publication on RAVE's database.

Research: Fredís personal research is mainly to do with the development of novel instrumentation for large telescopes, and the scientific discoveries that follow. Since the early 1980s, he has been closely involved with the use of fibre optics in multiple-object spectroscopy (for example in the WYFFOS system on the William Herschel Telescope and 6dF on the UK Schmidt Telescope), and he has contributed to several major surveys of the motions of stars and galaxies. He is a team-member of the 6dF Galaxy Survey, now completed, and is actively involved with the international RAVE  project.  He is also interested in future extremely large telescopes, dark-sky preservation, global virtual observatories and astronomy education.

When time permits, Fred  carries out research into the history of scientific instruments. He has written two books on optical intruments, and was a contributor to the award-winning historical encylopaedia Instruments of Science.

Science outreach: A small component of Fred's job that spills over into a large component of his private life is communicating astronomy to the public. He has been a guest speaker at venues ranging from Parliament House and the Australian Museum to Science in the Pub, and is much in demand among science educators. Fred also has regular slots on ABC Radio. He writes regularly for several publications, including Australian Geographic and the annual Yearbook of Astronomy, edited by Sir Patrick Moore.

Read more in Fred's biography and a summary of recent books, articles and technical papers.

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Page maintained by: Fred Watson, AAO

Latest revision:  22 July 2006