A forerunner in astronomy, Europe has recognised the importance of making changes to ensure it retains the top spot in this field. A European or global partnership would support Europe in its quest to develop new infrastructures in astronomy. Enter the EU-funded ASTRONET project, which targets the creation of a wide-ranging and coordinated strategy to strengthen European astronomy on earth and in space. The 20-year 'Scientific Vision for European astronomy' is the brainchild of this 17-member European consortium.
Image shows a ghostly 'ring' of dark matter in a galaxy cluster.
The 'Vision', a transparent approach, will then open the door for the project's Infrastructure and Key Technology Roadmap, as well as an implementation plan that will be used as a guide for key policy decisions.
Leiden Observatory's Tim de Zeeuv, who co-led the project, said ASTRONET will prove instrumental in establishing a 'vibrant, long-term future for astronomy and science'. For his part, Professor Keith Mason, head of Britain's Science and Technology Facilities Council, remarked that for Europe to maintain its position, a pan-European programme that defines objectives and the required facilities should be established. 'Under the ASTRONET framework, we are able to do just this, and select the best programme for the next two decades of research,' Prof. Mason said.
The 'Vision' strategy targets a better understanding of the extremes of the universe, the formation and development of galaxies, the origin and evolution of stars and planets, and what role humans have in all this. This key document effectively identifies the leading new technologies and facilities that are required to tackle these issues, including high performance computing resources, the European Virtual Observatory, and advances in theory and numerical simulations.
The outcome of the vision will be a Roadmap, which will have the tools astronomers need to determine what crucial issues they will face. Roadmap coordinator Mike Bode, a Professor at Liverpool John Moores University, said: 'We are looking in detail at facilities on the ground and in space, operating across the whole electromagnetic spectrum, plus for example those which detect exotic particles and search for gravitational waves.'
The work involved will cover key resources in the areas theory and computing, in addition to laboratory studies, the professor explained. 'The Roadmap is also addressing enhancing the wider impact of astronomy on science education and the public understanding of science in general,'he said.
On the whole, the ASTRONET project will fuel cooperation across the board, as researchers are consistently and jointly developing pan-European programmes for outreach, training, mobility and evaluation procedures. All work carried out by European astronomers and researchers is bearin fruit.