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AAS INFORMATIONAL EMAIL - Mt. Stromlo Fire

From AAS President Catherine Pilachowski

Dear fellow AAS Members,

As many of you heard over the weekend, a series of bush fires burning in and around Canberra, Australia, has resulted in substantial damage to the Mt. Stromlo Observatory.

This comes as a painful blow to the entire astronomical community, but thankfully no life was lost in the destruction of the facility, although several residents of the Canberra area have lost their lives. The fires are certainly a natural disaster of the first order and many observatory staff have lost their homes.

On behalf of the American Astronomical Society, I have sent notes of concern and offers of whatever assistance we can provide to both the
director of Mt. Stromlo and the appropriate staff at the Australian National University. It is heartening that the university has already pledged to rebuild its astronomical research infrastructure. A spectrograph destined for  the Gemini North telescope was destroyed in the fire as well, which is a setback to many  researchers around the world. The instrumentation labs have been damaged severely, but the extent of the damage is not yet fullyassessed.

I am sure that we will all be following this story through the news media, but I wanted to let you know that a special web site has been established at the Australian National University with up-to-date information on the situation and how to contact our colleagues affiliated with Mt. Stromlo. The site can be found at

http://www.anu.edu.au/fires/.

Email is the preferred form of communication and extant email addresses for the staff will still work. Of special note, the ANU has stated that students planning to obtain a Ph.D. at ANU in astronomy should continue on course, which clearly shows the ANU's commitment to the
astronomy program.

As our colleagues work to overcome this terrible disaster, the AAS will do whatever we can to help. At the present time the staff are dealing with only the most pressing issues. It may be a few weeks before the full damage is determined and the most appropriate forms of assistance identified. We will be sure to let all of you know how you can help as soon as possible.

Included below is the message I sent to the Dr. Penny Sackett, the current director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics,
Mt. Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories.

Sincerely,

Caty Pilachowski,
AAS President

MESSAGE FROM CATHERINE A. PILACHOWSKI, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY TO THE ASTRONOMERS OF MT. STROMLO AND THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

The American Astronomical Society and its members are shocked and saddened by the devastating bush fires which have destroyed so much of the Mt. Stromlo Observatory and parts of the Australian Capital Territory. Our condolences go out to anyone who lost loved ones in this ongoing tragedy, and we are extremely grateful that no members of the observatory's staff were lost.

We stand ready to assist our colleagues and friends at Mt. Stromlo in any way we can to help rebuild their research institution and carry on as one of the premier research centers and observatories in the world.

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Sent from aas.org on 21 JAN 2003 at 8:55am ET
Send address corrections to address@aas.org
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