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RAS welcomes ESFRI roadmap

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:00
Published on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 00:00
The Royal Astronomical Society has welcomed the newly-published European Roadmap for Research Infrastructure (ESFRI), which charts out the scientific needs of researchers across Europe over the next two decades.

The ESFRI roadmap stretches across a range of scientific disciplines in different European nations and includes recommendations for a suite of ambitious new projects in astronomy and geophysics.

Professor Andy Fabian, President of the Royal Astronomical Society is impressed by the vision espoused by ESFRI. “Astronomers and geophysicists across Europe have put together an ambitious set of proposals. Maintaining a world-class scientific infrastructure will help European researchers compete with their peers elsewhere – it keeps us at the cutting edge of science and technology.”

Geophysics and astronomy projects under consideration include:


Solar-terrestrial physicists should benefit enormously from an upgrade of the existing European Incoherent SCATter (EISCAT) radar to an enhanced system (EISCAT-3D), which will be used to study disturbances in the terrestrial upper atmosphere (including the ionosphere). These fluctuations are influenced by material ejected from the Sun or ‘space weather’ which can ultimately have a detrimental impact on power grids, orbiting satellites and communication systems. If approved, EISCAT-3D will be constructed from 2011 and begin operating in 2015.


The proposed European Plate Observing System (EPOS) is a key project for solid Earth geophysics that would begin operating in 2018. EPOS aims to monitor the movements of the European tectonic plate, giving scientists a better understanding of the processes controlling catastrophic events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis.


The Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIAEOS) will complement existing Arctic observing networks. As part of its work, it will help geophysicists understand the energy balance between different layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, the oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Arctic and the changing pattern of Arctic ice cover. SIAEOS could begin operating from 2012.


An observatory for studying the Universe at gamma-ray wavelengths, the Cerenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will be based on two sites – one in the northern and one in the southern hemisphere. CTA will study some of the most exotic objects in the cosmos, both within and outside our own Galaxy.


With a main mirror more than 40m across, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will follow on from the existing range of large optical telescopes. The E-ELT will be capable of seeing objects like Earth-like planets around the nearest stars and galaxies forming in the early Universe.


100 times more sensitive than existing radio observatories, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will detect radio waves using dishes with a collecting area of 1 million square metres, distributed over a distance of at least 3000 km.

Download the ESFRI roadmap