This month saw Universiti Malaya leading actively the way in international astronomical cooperation, with events including a world-class conference and plans for participation in a project bringing together Asian countries.
The symposiums of the International Astronomical Union are events gathering renowned astronomers and astrophysicists from around the world, to discuss their work and share it with students and the public. This year Universiti Malaya and the National Planetarium organised the 377th International Astronomical Union Symposium, the first such conference ever in Malaysia and the first in the Southeast Asia region since 1990. The conference took place in Kuala Lumpur from 6 until 10 February 2023, focused on the findings and results from the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope and was attended by almost 200 international participants, including from Australia, China, Spain, Germany and USA.
In addition to the main conference, Universiti Malaya had the privilege to facilitate the Monsoon School –an astronomy workshop for students– and public talks. The Monsoon School targeted potential young astronomers who plan to pursue their journey in astronomical and astrophysical research, with participants from Malaysia and from Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, India, Chile, the Netherlands and United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the public talks aimed to share the fundamentals of astronomy and astrophysics and spark interest in space sciences. The success of the symposium’s activities was reflected in the positive comments from all participants.
The public talks were given by three prominent astronomers, including Prof. Paul Ho, the director general of the East Asian Observatory (EAO). Prof. Ho was among the invited speakers at the main conference where he gave a presentation entitled “EAO as a Path for Rapid Growth of Malaysian Astronomy”. Universiti Malaya has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the EAO, currently participating as an observer institution; a research group at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, led by Prof. Dr. Zamri Zainal Abidin, is actively involved in EAO projects.
During the week Prof. Ho was invited to meet the director general of the Malaysia Space Agency (MYSA), Tuan Haji Azlikamil Napiah, and discuss about Malaysia becoming a full member of the EAO. Prof. Ho claimed that in order to become a competitive force in astronomy, Asia should unite. “We should be growing together. Now is the time for Malaysia to step in, as the economy is projected to be booming,” he added. According to MYSA, “through this collaborative effort, researchers in Malaysia can take advantage of EAO facilities, share technical expertise and thus be able to make Asia a great consortium in terms of astronomical research infrastructure and human resource expertise.”