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Concepts and objectives

Concepts

Astronomy is experiencing an era of exciting discoveries that provide answers to fundamental questions that have intrigued humankind for centuries. Our understanding of the birth of our Universe, the cause of its large-scale structure, and the formation and evolution of galaxies is becoming ever firmer. We are beginning to observe directly the ultra-energetic phenomena near black holes and other compact objects and understand the symbiotic relationships between galaxies and their central black holes. Hundreds of planetary systems have been discovered around other stars, and during the next two decades we will likely discover Earth-like planets and perhaps signatures of life in their atmospheres. And the exploration of our own Solar System is taking us to ever more exotic worlds, such as Mercury, Mars, Titan, or Pluto.

At the heart of these discoveries is the development of large research infrastructures and their associated technologies: ground-based optical, radio, and cosmic-ray observatories, space missions, “virtual observatories” for data mining, and large-scale computing facilities. Given the scale and projected construction and operating cost of the proposed new infra¬structures, the largest facilities of the next 20 years will probably be unique on a global scale. It is therefore mandatory that the choice and development of these facilities be based on a clear overview of the scientific priorities and synergies between them, and that their design, construction, operation, and scientific exploitation rely on a comprehensive and agreed plan for the optimum deployment of Europe’s financial and human resources.

The mission of ASTRONET is to address this task. Formed in 2005 as a consortium of the largest funding agencies for astronomy in Europe, including both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), ASTRONET was awarded an ERA-NET grant of 2.5 M€ by the European Commission for the period 2005-2010. An impressive momentum has been built up already during this initial period.

The overarching vision of ASTRONET is at the same time simple and unprece¬dentedly ambitious: to establish a strategic planning mechanism for all of European astronomy for the next 5-25 years. It covers scientific topics from the Sun and Solar System to the limits of the observable Universe and research tools from the radio domain to gamma-rays and particles, on the ground as well as in space; but also theory and computing, outreach, training and recruitment of the vital human resources. And, importantly, ASTRONET aims to engage all astronomical communities and relevant funding agencies on the new map of Europe.

Despite the formidable challenges of establishing such a comprehensive plan for the first time in European history, ASTRONET reached that goal with the publication of its Infrastructure Roadmap in November 2008. Building on that remarkable achievement, our ambition now goes much farther as we proceed to the implementation stage. This is a very significant new step towards European integration of the management of European resources, and a very ambitious goal. At the same time, we want to establish the coordinating function pioneered by ASTRONET as a permanent feature of European astronomy.

Project objectives

While a great deal of momentum has been gained already, it is imperative to consolidate and further develop it. We have established a vision for our long-term scientific objectives and a Roadmap for the facilities and resources that are needed to reach these goals. Both documents will remain valid for a long time, although some update might be needed after maybe 5 years, depending on the rate of progress on the present plan. However, the underlying aim is to establish a permanent mechanism for planning and coordination in European astronomy, a task that will need sustained action over several more years. This is our first objective.

A second, essential, but no doubt difficult task will be the follow-up and implementation of the Roadmap. Preparatory studies for some of the largest infrastructure have been established to clarify e.g. the legal aspects and governance issues, but there will remain a need for general coordination of all European agencies in a common forum, beyond the current EC-funded programmes. The goal must be to implement the new facilities that are needed to reach our scientific goals and at the same time optimise existing programmes in scientific as well as finan¬cial terms - not only joint facilities such as those of ESO or ESA, but a range of national resources as well. Our second objective is to take a major step forward in this process.

Four specific actions are planned to strengthen the coordination of national policies:

- Follow-up of the roadmap. This includes coordination actions on such projects as CTA (Cerenkov Telescope Array) or SKA (Square Telescope Array) that currently have no organizational basis beyond the finite-term EC contracts; monitoring changes in the global scientific and/or technological context that may require an update or revision of the Roadmap or Science Vision; action on the Roadmap recom¬mendations concerning the Astrophysical Software Laboratory, the Virtual Observatory and laboratory astrophysics; or better overall coordination of the European 8-10m-class telescopes. It also includes common actions to implement the recommendations from the reviews of the 2-4m (and later radio) telescope reviews, as well as those concerning education and outreach. Further common calls and other actions are also planned to im¬prove the organization and scientific returns of the large European infrastructures.

- Definition of a self-sustainable mechanism for the coordination of European astronomy. The need for a coordination structure at the European level is vital and permanent, but an actual mechanism needs to be defined and agreed.

- Integration of new EU countries in the future of Europe astronomy. Several countries that have joined ASTRONET recently are not yet profiting fully from the assets of European mainstream astro¬nomy. However, the astronomers who will build and exploit the new large facilities need to be recruited from all of Europe. Systematic efforts as appropriate in each case will be made to integrate them fully in the realisation of the Science Vision.

- Exchange of information. A data base is needed of essential facts on astronomy in the European countries (e.g. budget, number of astronomers, etc.), and on the organization and governance modes. Links with other European initiatives (I3s, design studies, preparatory programmes, ERA-NETs) and with similar international efforts will be strengthened.

Latest Events

New ASTRONET Board :

On 9 Dec 2016, the new ASTRONET Board has hold its first meeting at ESO headquarters, celebrating the signature of the new Memorandum of Understanding and the continuation of a success story for the coordination of national funding agencies and international organizations for Astronomy in Europe. ASTRONET is now ready for a self-sustainable organization, the first step being to complete within a few weeks the representation of many additional national agencies in Europe that have indicated their intention to join.

Picture l.t.r.:

http://www.astronet-eu.org/IMG/jpg/...

Conny Aerts (Belgium, FWO), Denis Mourard (France, CNRS), Ronald Stark (The Netherlands, NWO), Colin Vincent (United Kingdom, STFC), Rob Ivison (ESO), Saskia Matheussen (The Netherlands, NWO), Luca Valenziano (Italy, INAF, participation by visioconf)

MoU ASTRONET :

Astronet publishes reports :

ASTRONET publishes several reports as the ERTRC "Report on the implementation of the radio telescope review committee recommendations". Please see Menu/Resources/Document Archives/Publications/ASTRONET FP7 or click here: http://www.astronet-eu.org/spip.php...

Letter of Intent :

Please find the «Letter of Intent» in the Private Area (Templates)

The Next Decade :

A special session «ASTRONET 2015-2025 - The Next Decade» at EWASS 2015 was held in La Laguna on 24 June 2015.

ASTRONET LAUNCH EVENT :

ASTRONET was started in 2005 and supported by the EU under FP6 and FP7 to establish a permanent mechanism for the coordination of the investments in European astronomy. This initial period produced a Science Vision and a Roadmap that covers scientific topics from the solar neighborhood to the limits of the observable Universe and also engaged virtually all astronomical communities and funding agencies in Europe in this coordination.

Having completed these major steps, ASTRONET is now prepared to launch its permanent successor in order to continue the science-based strategic planning for the development of all European Astronomy. The ASTRONET LAUNCH EVENT was held at the OBSERVATOIRE DE PARIS on 17 June 2015.

Board meeting June 2015 :

The Board Meeting No. 5 was held on 17 June in Paris.

Update Science Vision :

Please find here the final, published update to the ASTRONET Science Vision: http://www.astronet-eu.org/IMG/pdf/...

Update Infrastructure Roadmap :

Please find here the final, published update to the ASTRONET Infrastructure Roadmap: http://www.astronet-eu.org/IMG/pdf/...

Overview of proposal deadlines :

ASTRONET offers here an overview of proposal deadlines concerning current and forthcoming calls for proposals issued by ASTRONET partner agencies including timescales and thematic constraints. Also listed are permanently open funding programmes of ASTRONET agencies. This overview (ASTRONET’s Task 5.4) is meant to provide information for interested transnational research groups on European wide funding opportunities in order to foster coordinated funding of transnational research projects: http://www.astronet-eu.org/IMG/pdf/...