International astronomy conference opens Tuesday 15 July in Sydney, Australia

July 11, 2003

Two thousand astronomers from 65 countries will converge on the Darling Harbour Convention Centre in Sydney next week for the 25th triennial General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The meeting kicks off on Sunday 13 July and runs for two weeks.

It will be officially opened at the Sydney Opera House at 6 pm on Tuesday 15 July (local time) by Federal Minister for Science Dr Brendan Nelson, with a video address by Prime Minister John Howard.

During the ceremony one of the world's most distinguished astrophysicists, Professor Rashid Sunyaev, Director of the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Astrophysik in Germany, will receive the Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. Worth US$150 000, this is one of the premier international prizes in astronomy.

Dr Sunyaev is a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. He was chosen for the award by an international panel of experts for his pioneering studies on the nature of the cosmic microwave background and its interaction with intervening matter.

Professor Sunyaev "has one of the most fertile minds in astrophysics today", said Professor Robert Williams, Distinguished Research Scholar at the Space Telescope Science Institute in the US and a member of the advisory board that selected Professor Sunyaev for the Cosmology Prize.

"Professor Sunyaev was one of the first scientists to point out the importance of measuring fluctuations in the relic Big Bang radiation as a means of determining fundamental characteristics of the Universe," he said.

Held every three years, the General Assembly is one of the largest and most diverse astronomy meetings. It has been held only once before in Sydney, in 1973. The meeting will cover virtually every topic in astronomy, including: Running alongside the General Assembly is the Australian Festival of Astronomy, a program of entertainment and activities running throughout July. This will include the public exhibition ASTROEXPO and a series of informative talks by the world's leading astronomy experts. For more information, see http://www.astronomyfestival.com/about/ .

The International Astronomical Union 25th General Assembly is sponsored by the Astronomical Society of Australia, Connell Wagner, CSIRO, the Department of Education Science and Training, and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. The meeting's opening ceremony is sponsored by the Peter Gruber Foundation.
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CONTACT Helen Sim +61-419-635-905, Helen.Sim@csiro.au

INTERVIEWS
Professor Sunyaev will be available for interview at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday 15 July during 5-6 p.m.

Also available will be:
Patricia Murphy Gruber, President of the Peter Gruber Foundation, and Professor Franco Pacini, President of the International Astronomical Union.

Enquiries: Helen Sim 61-419-635-905, Helen.Sim@csiro.au

OPENING CEREMONY
The ceremony begins at 6 pm in the Concert Hall. Media may attend the pre-ceremony reception from 5-6 pm by prior arrangement only. Enquiries: Helen Sim 61-419-635-905, Helen.Sim@csiro.au

A feed will be available from an OB van at the Opera House by prior arrangement. TV crews will NOT be permitted to film in the Concert Hall during the ceremony. Enquiries: Mark Wallage 0418-476-518

PRIME MINISTER'S ADDRESS
Copies of the Prime Minister's video address will be available at the ceremony.
Enquiries: Mark Wallage 0418-476-518

IMAGES Photographs of Professor Sunyaev may be downloaded from http://www.pressroom.astronomy2003.com/gallery/index.html?TOPIC_ID=41

URLS FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Full details of the meeting: www.astronomy2003.com .
Simplified program: http://www.pressroom.astronomy2003.com/program/
Abstracts of symposia talks: http://www.pressroom.astronomy2003.com/abstracts/ .

ABOUT RASHID ALIEVICH SUNYAEV
Sunyaev's contributions have been wide-ranging. He co-authored a series of landmark papers that laid the foundations for understanding fluctuations in microwave background radiation and thus advanced ongoing studies about the conditions in the early universe. Together with Yakov B. Zeldovich, he was the first to describe the apparent cooling of radiation as it passes through hot gas, a process now known as the Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect.

Born in 1943 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Sunyaev was educated at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and Moscow University. He worked at the Institute of Applied Mathematics in the Soviet Union and was head of the High Energy Astrophysics Department at the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Since 1996, he has been a director of the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany.

THE PETER GRUBER FOUNDATION
The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving, principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. In recent years the Foundation has expanded its focus to a series of international awards recognizing discoveries and achievements that produce fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture. Further information about the Peter Gruber Foundation and its awards is available from www.petergruberfoundation.org .

THE COSMOLOGY PRIZE
The Peter Gruber Foundation awards annual prizes in three areas: cosmology, genetics, and justice. A fourth prize category, women's rights, will begin this year. Each prize winner receives a gold medal and an unrestricted US$150,000 cash award. The purpose of the awards is to recognize, honor, and encourage the best in each discipline.

The Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is one of the premier international prizes in the field. Last year's prizewinner was Dr. Vera Rubin, an observational astronomer known for her study of how galaxies revolve within dark matter. The recipient in 2001 was Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom and Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University. Recipients of the Cosmology Prize in 2000 were Allan R. Sandage, Staff Astronomer Emeritus, The Observatories (Pasadena, California) Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Phillip J.E. Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor of Physics at Princeton University.

THE INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL UNION
Founded in 1919, the International Astronomical Union is the world's largest professional body for astronomers, with more than 8000 members. The IAU General Assembly is held every three years and is one of the largest and most diverse meetings on the astronomical community's calendar. More information about the IAU can be found at www.iau.org .

CSIRO Australia

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