ASTRONET first started in 2005 as a consortium of European funding agencies and research organisations. The network aims at encouraging a common science vision for all of European astronomy. One of its key goals is to deliver a strategic plan and an infrastructure roadmap. ASTRONET was an ERA-NET up to 2015, in the context of HORIZON 2020 and with the support of the European Commission. ASTRONET is now a self-sustained group of funding agencies and associated bodies. ASTRONET covers the whole astronomical domain. Objects of interest go from the Sun and the Solar System to the limits of the observable Universe. The spectral studies range from radioastronomy to gamma-rays and particles. The network covers the ground as well as space observations. It includes also theory, laboratory astrophysics and computing. Finally, the consortium is dedicated to outreach, training and recruitment of the vital human resources and to ensuring the sustainability of Astronomical research.
ASTRONET-1: Networking and preparing decisions on major infrastructures
At the outset, the ASTRONET partners faced a bewildering array of proposals for constructing major infrastructures at all wavelengths and particles. They agreed that comprehensive, science-based, coordinated planning was the most cost-effective basis on which to address this challenge. Both in the construction and operational phases. Establishing such a comprehensive plan across diverse scientific disciplines and communities was a challenge. After extensive community consultation, ASTRONET-1 reached that key goal with the publication of its Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap reports in November 2007 and 2008. A number of concomitant surveys and topical strategy plans were also prepared. The value of close contact between European astronomy and its funders was proven at the same time. These were very significant new steps towards the coordination of all European resources in the field.
The network has made a permanent impact on European astronomy. Mainly with the Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap as the basis for the coordination. It has proven a successful combination of bottom-up and top-down approach. Interaction with all key stakeholders is recognized as a model of coordination. What the community now expects is implementation of the Roadmap recommendations. This implies long-term commitment to action at different levels. Also a flexible, tailor-made, pragmatic approach–which is the spirit of ASTRONET.
ASTRONET-2: Implementing the roadmap and preparing the future
Building on these initial achievements, ASTRONET-2 has addressed implementing the Roadmap. The Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap was developed in concert with ESO and ESA’s own long-term plans.
ASTRONET main recommendations were followed by decision makers. The ESO Council has launched the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) project. The next major ESA missions have been selected. The SKA and CTA projects are off to a firm start. Thus, the future main facilities for European astronomy have been approved as foreseen–the more remarkable since the economic downturn has put budgets, recurrent costs and staffing under stress in the same period.
In 2015, ASTRONET published its final reports, which include:
- Final report;
- Science Vision Update;
- Infrastructure Roadmap Update.
Other public reports
From 2010 to 2015, the network also published those groups of documents:
- European coordination of research infrastructures;
Integration of the European communities in mainstream astronomy;
Coordination of national funding agencies;
Education, Training, and Public Outreach.
Finally, all the ASTRONET working documents from the beginning are accessible:
- 2011: Report on a wide field, highly multiplexed spectrograph
- 2010 : Report on Europe's 2-4m telescopes over the decade to 2020
- 2008: Infrastructure Roadmap;
- 2007: Science Vision;
- 2006: Report on the management of European Astronomy.
Building on its remarkable achievement, ASTRONET decided in 2018 to initiate and lead a new Science Vision (SV) and Infrastructure Roadmap (IR) with the goal to deliver a new long-term vision for European astronomy up to the 2030s. A pilot study was conducted in 2019 to define the format of the SV&IR. The work will be led by five panels, designed to cover all aspects of astronomical science, and with a membership drawn from across Europe, with a good mix of gender and experience. and A kick-off meeting took place on April 21st 2020. The final document is expected in February 2021.
ASTRONET is currently active in:
- The establishment of a new Science Vision & Infrastructure Roadmap up to the 2030s;
- The European Astronomical Society Meeting (formerly known as EWASS);
- The Time Domain Astronomy field;
- The preservation of our Astronomical Heritage.
ASTRONET unites several organizations comprised of core team members, observers and invitees:
Members: NWO, CNRS/INSU, STFC, ESO, FWO, INAF, MTA CSFK, Swedish Research Council, MINECO;
Observers: ESA, EAS, SKA and Council of German Observatories
Connections: APPEC, EU networks – Opticon, Radionet, Solarnet, Europlanet, ESCAPE, etc.
Contacts are available for all members of:
- The ASTRONET Board;
- The ASTRONET Executive Committee;
- The ASTRONET Project Management Office.