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The Sky Seen from Europe : Astronomical Planning

European space scientists believe in strength through unity. They have issued long-term objectives to help prioritize, coordinate, and fund major projects. The catalogue of X-ray sources recently released by a team of scientists from five European countries shows how successful this strategy can be.

Astronomical Planning

Organizations representing European space scientists have spent the last year peering across time, trying to outline what their professions will be like over the next century.
For astronomers, the 168-page “Science Vision,”1 published by Astronet is a manifesto for the continent’s skygazers, detailing the central issues facing their profession. Astronet was created in 2005 by European scientific funding agencies to help plan and coordinate astronomical research. “You must have a convincing picture of what is needed,” explains Program Coordinator Jean-Marie Hameury. “We use large-scale facilities that are very costly, and require long-term planning.”
The Science Vision document–the result of a year of consultations among European scientists–lists a number of questions 21st century astronomy struggles to understand. The document then puts these questions in context, and proposes a number of experiments to find answers. With this as a departure point, the Science Vison process is now working to define a prioritized list of facilities and instruments needed–including satellites, ground based observatories, and unmanned probes to other parts of the solar system.
Astronet Science Vision is not the only document guiding European science released this year; the ASPERA network, representing agencies funding European astroparticle physics, is also planning the future. Its roadmap2 prioritization phase began at a September 2007 meeting of 200 European and international astroparticle physicists. They identified a number of infrastructure projects for the next decade: a cubic kilometer-scale neutrino telescope, an array of Cherenkov Telescopes for high energy gamma detection (both already EU priorities), an array for very high energy cosmic rays, a detector for dark matter, another to determine the nature and mass of the neutrino, yet another to search for proton decay, and a third-generation underground gravitational antenna. ASPERA coordinator Stavros Katsanevas says the supporting agencies have been positive: “The enthusiasm with which both scientific and funding agencies embraced this makes me confident of the outcome.”

Mark Reynolds


Notes :

1. The Science Vision report is available at:
2. The ASPERA Roadmap is available at:

Contacts :

Jean-Marie Hameury
INSU, Paris.

Stavros Katsanevas
IN2P3, Paris.


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