The Malaysia Space Agency (MYSA) is exploring its participation in an ambitious international astrophysics project with the East Asian Observatory (EAO). EAO which was formed in 2014, brings together the forces of the region’s countries in an era where astronomical discoveries require large-scale instruments.
The major space research agencies of the East Asian nations are full partners in the project, with universities from Southeast Asia participating as observer institutions, including Universiti Malaya (UM).
The Observatory’s founder and director, distinguished astronomer Dr Paul Ho, met with MYSA’s director Tuan Haji Azlikamil Napiah last month to discuss the prospects of Malaysia becoming a full member. Currently, EAO’s full members include China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Dr Ho stressed that, in order to become a competitive force in astronomy, Asian countries should unite. “Now is the time for Malaysia to step in, as the economy is projected to be booming,” he noted, adding that “young people should feel that the future is now and that they can return to our countries in order to build our futures together, across all of Asia”.
Scientists from UM are currently actively involved in projects under EAO, with access to facilities in the James Maxwell Clerk Telescope and the Sub-Millimetre Array, located in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Professor Zamri Zainal Abidin from UM’s Department of Physics noted that “the university’s researchers have taken enormous efforts to bring forward this interest to the national level and look forward to seeing a better future of astronomical and astrophysical research in Malaysia”.
Leading the way in international astronomical cooperation in bringing together Asian countries, UM and the National Planetarium recently 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.