Radio astronomical research in Europe is based on a suite of specialised radio telescopes that cover a range of wavelengths from decametres to sub-millimetres. Some radio telescopes are sensitive to low brightness emission from cold interstellar clouds, others have the unique capability to study the extremely bright emission from highly relativistic plasma in great detail. The variety of available angular resolutions, combined with state-of-the-art sensitivities have resulted in extremely versatile radio facilities.
European radio astronomers have access to a wide range of radio telescopes through a number of national facilities and through European collaborations where infrastructure providers have joined their efforts to establish and maintain world-class research facilities. Together the European nations provide the users with sensitive telescopes like the Effelsberg and Sardinia dishes, the millimetre telescopes of IRAM, JCMT and APEX, interferometers probing high resolution like WSRT, e-MERLIN and the EVN, and the IRAM interferometer at high frequencies. While all these instruments are themselves undergoing spectacular upgrades, in the coming years the RadioNet3 consortium will offer new, unique capabilities with the International LOFAR telescope becoming fully operational and the ALMA (sub-) millimetre-array being commissioned. Moreover, the healthy ambitions of the radio community are reflected in the leading role Europe has established in defining the SKA.
Building on the FP6 and FP7 Integrated Infrastructure Initiatives this programme will continue the organization of European radio astronomy under the flag of RadioNet3. The ambition of this program is to foster European radio astronomy, and to shape the radio astronomical scene in Europe into a complete, innovative and accessible set of research facilities. Specifically, RadioNet3 provides a sustainable and broad-based platform for the continued organisation of the European radio astronomy community, which is essential for securing a lasting European leadership in all aspects of radio astronomy.
This programme strikes a balance between the needs for user access and technological development. The innovative telescope facilities included in the programme are of paramount interest to the astronomical community in terms of transnational access. They are also those that will benefit most directly from the results of the research activities.
As an Integrating Activity, the mission or RadioNet3 is to optimise the use and development of European radio astronomy infrastructures via a transnational access (TNA) programme, networking activities (NAs), and Joint Research Activities (JRA).
The transnational access (TNA) programme of RadioNet3 is designed to stimulate the full exploitation of the open skies policy that has been at the core of the operations philosophy of most radio astronomical facilities for decades towards reaching the ambitious goals that are set for the ALMA and SKA.
The networking activities (NAs) of RadioNet3 transform the way science is conducted in Europe; they provide a natural forum for developing European collaborations, for the sharing of ideas and results and for mobilizing the researchers themselves. This is important with the emergence of new research opportunities through SKA and its pathfinder telescopes.
The RadioNet3 Joint Research Activities will support targeted R&D to the facilities upgraded under construction in the areas of new digital techniques that allow radio astronomers to make more efficient use of telescope hardware by increasing the observing bandwidth or the field of view of the telescopes. Some of the developments are specifically relevant reaching the ambitious goals that are set for ALMA and the SKA.