Developing a new vision for European astronomy

January 24, 2007

A British astronomer is to lead a Pan-European project to develop a new 'roadmap to the stars'.

Michael Bode, Professor of Astrophysics at Liverpool John Moores University, has been charged with the vital task of developing the new 'roadmap', which will act as the blue print for the development of astronomy in Europe over the next 20 years. The roadmap will detail the infrastructure needed to deliver European astronomy's science vision - being agreed at a conference in Poitiers now (23-25th January 2007) hosted and organised by ASTRONET, a consortium of eleven European Science Agencies.

Big questions remain in our understanding of the Universe, and ASTRONET has divided these challenges into four scientific areas: Answering these questions will require development of existing infrastructure as well as European wide investment in new facilities. Professor Bode and the team of leading European astronomers who will work with him will consider various possible facilities.

For example, on the ground they will be considering the case for building the largest radio and optical telescopes ever, plus new facilities for detecting exotic sub-atomic particles. In space they will be considering the most sophisticated space observatories yet developed, not only observing across the electromagnetic spectrum but also gravitational waves. They are also aware of the impact astronomy has in enthusing young people to study science and the inspirational role it can play.

The infrastructure roadmap is crucial to the success of Europe's ASTRONET project, which is aiming to consolidate and reinforce the highly competitive position that European astronomy has attained at the beginning of the 21st century.

Commenting on the appointment, Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), which represents the UK in the ASTRONET consortium, said:

"Professor Bode's appointment reflects his outstanding contribution to astronomy over the last 25 years, both in the UK and internationally. He combines both the high levels of astronomical expertise, diplomacy and negotiating skills required to bring Europe's community of astronomers together to determine which programmes to back.

"Getting such a consensus will be hard work but it will be highly beneficial for the long-term health and competitiveness of European astronomy and space research. European astronomers have the opportunity to lead the way in mankind's exploration of the Universe over the coming decades."

ASTRONET has an extensive brief covering all astrophysical objects from the Sun and Solar system to the global structure of the Universe, as well as every observing technique, in space and from the ground, and from radiation at any wavelength to astroparticles and gravitational waves.

Working on behalf of the eleven ASTRONET agencies and with the European astronomy community, Professor Bode is aiming to devise a priority list of space missions and ground-based facilities to be developed over the next two decades. He will report his recommendations in mid 2008.

The foundations are already in place for the astronomical roadmap as it is commonplace for European projects to be funded collaboratively by a variety of agencies. The European Southern Observatory and the European Space Agency are just two examples of such Europe-wide collaborations.

Professor Bode explained:

"Astronomy has entered an era of exciting discoveries that provide answers to fundamental questions. At the heart of our increasing understanding of the Universe is the development of large research facilities and new technologies, such as ground-based observatories, space missions, "virtual observatories", and large-scale computing facilities.

"Given the scale and cost of these facilities, it is vital that scientists and key funding bodies across Europe reach a consensus, based on a defined scientific imperative, about which developments to invest in over the next 20 years. By gathering together the main national research organisations in Europe, as well as the European Southern Observatory and the European Space Agency, ASTRONET is striving to produce such a European, long-term strategic planning process for astronomy."
-end-
Press enquiries:

PPARC:

Julia Maddock
PPARC Press Office
Tel 01793 442094
Julia.maddock@pparc.ac.uk

LJMU:

Professor Mike Bode
Liverpool John Moores University
mfb@astro.livjm.ac.uk
Mobile 07968 422 360

Shonagh Wilkie
Direct line: 0151 231 3346
Mobile: 07968 422 508
Email: s.wilkie@ljmu.ac.uk

Notes to editors

About Michael Bode

Michael Bode is Professor of Astrophysics at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and a Senior Research Fellow of the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). He is a past vice president and secretary of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and has chaired many Research Council committees, both national and international. He was a founder member and first chairman of the RAS UK Standing Conference of Astronomy Professors and over the past year has been a representative in delegations to both China and Thailand seeking enhanced international collaboration with UK astronomy.

ASTRONET is an ERA-Net financed by the European Commission FP6 under the initiative 'Integrating and Strengthening the European Research Area (ERA)'. The ASTRONET consortium currently has nine participating organisations, though this is expected to increase: CNRS/INSU (France), BMBF et PT-DESY (Germany), ESO, INAF (Italy), MEC (Spain), Nordic Optical telescope (NOT) Scientific Association (NOTSA), NOW (Netherlands), PPARC (United Kingdom), and two associates, ESA and MPG.

Further information

Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University: www.astro.livjm.ac.uk/
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC): www.pparc.ac.uk
ASTRONET: www.astronet-eu.org/

About PPARC

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is the UK's strategic science investment agency. It funds research, education and public understanding in four areas of science - particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and space science.

PPARC is government funded and provides research grants and studentships to scientists in British universities, gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), and the European Space Agency. It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank observatory.

Science and Technology Facilities Council

Related Solar System Articles from Brightsurf:

Ultraviolet shines light on origins of the solar system
In the search to discover the origins of our solar system, an international team of researchers, including planetary scientist and cosmochemist James Lyons of Arizona State University, has compared the composition of the sun to the composition of the most ancient materials that formed in our solar system: refractory inclusions in unmetamorphosed meteorites.

Second alignment plane of solar system discovered
A study of comet motions indicates that the Solar System has a second alignment plane.

Pressure runs high at edge of solar system
Out at the boundary of our solar system, pressure runs high.

What a dying star's ashes tell us about the birth of our solar system
A UA-led team of researchers discovered a dust grain forged in a stellar explosion before our solar system was born.

What scientists found after sifting through dust in the solar system
Two recent studies report discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system: a dust ring at Mercury's orbit, and a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with Venus, supplying the dust in Venus' orbit.

Discovered: The most-distant solar system object ever observed
A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our solar system.

Discovery of the first body in the Solar System with an extrasolar origin
Asteroid 2015 BZ509 is the very first object in the Solar System shown to have an extrasolar origin.

First interstellar immigrant discovered in the solar system
A new study has discovered the first known permanent immigrant to our solar system.

A star disturbed the comets of the solar system in prehistory
About 70,000 years ago, when the human species was already on Earth, a small reddish star approached our solar system and gravitationally disturbed comets and asteroids.

Scientists detect comets outside our solar system
Scientists from MIT and other institutions, working closely with amateur astronomers, have spotted the dusty tails of six exocomets -- comets outside our solar system -- orbiting a faint star 800 light years from Earth.

Read More: Solar System News and Solar System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.