RadioNet: Advanced Radio Astronomy in EuropePress Release 0104 - 9th March 2004
A new European astronomy programme, RadioNet, is formally initiated this week with an inaugural meeting of its Board at the Istituto de Astrophysica in Tenerife. It is significant that, though RadioNet is a grouping of European Radio Astronomy Observatories, this meeting is being held at an optical observatory. This is in accordance with one of its main aims - that of building bridges and improving communications amongst all astronomers within the European Community.
RadioNet is a new vision for radio astronomy designed to bring together a broad group of institutes to collaborate widely in coordinated research and related activities. It is already promoting a much greater level of cooperation and collaboration than existed before and it is hoped that astronomers will quickly see the benefits of this in the shape of greater access to those telescopes that they may not be familiar with, in improvements to the instrumentation of these telescopes and in a more coherent approach to future challenges.
Over recent years European radio astronomy has been the beneficiary of significant funding from the European Commission (EC). The EC's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), now underway, broadened the scope of such support and created an instrument known as an Integrated Infrastructure Initiative (I3) designed to bring together a broad group of institutes to collaborate in a range of areas. European radio astronomers felt that this was an opportunity not to be missed and so put together a broad programme in a proposal called RadioNet which was rated first amongst all astronomy proposals and was funded at a level of 12.4 MEuro for five years from January this year.
RadioNet has 20 partners. They range from operators of radio telescope facilities to laboratories that specialize in micro-electronics, MMIC design and super-conducting component fabrication. The RadioNet project has brought these institutes together in an unique partnership that builds on and extends the successful, but smaller, collaborations that currently exist.
The RadioNet management plan is strong and well-structured and builds on the close collaboration that many of the institutes have developed over the last 25 years of operation of the European VLBI Network - an array of major radio telescopes spanning Europe from Finland to Sicily and south to South Africa and from the UK to Poland and eastwards to China. The many strands of RadioNetare to be linked together from the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory under the leadership of Professor Philip Diamond who has been appointed RadioNet Coordinator.
A RadioNet web-site has been established (http://www.radionet-eu.org). This will be the main interface between RadioNet and the astronomy community.