European funding agencies push forward large astroparticle physics projects
22 November 2011
European funding agencies welcomed today the priorities for the future of astroparticle physics defined by the scientific community, and accepted the recommendations included in the newly published update of the European roadmap for astroparticle physics.
This update comes after the first ever European roadmap for astroparticle physics published in 2008 whose main goal was to define the research infrastructures necessary for the development of the field: « the Magnificent Seven » of astroparticle physics. Astroparticle physics aims to investigate on fundamental questions such as the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the study the high-energy Universe through new messenger astronomy (high-energy gamma, neutrinos, cosmic rays and gravitational waves) and the behaviour of interactions at the highest energies as revealed by the search of proton decay and the determination of neutrino properties.
“The update of the roadmap provides a better picture of what will come first on the menu” said Christian Spiering, chairman of the ASPERA and ApPEC* Scientific Advisory Committee that produced the roadmap. Funding for each project is still subject to national decision-making processes, and the roadmap recognises that not all funding agencies will necessarily support each project.
The strategy of astroparticle physics reaffirms the needed support for current running experiments and planned upgrades, in particular in the areas of gravitational waves, dark matter search and neutrino property measurement, and to underground and space-based infrastructures. The mid-term planning (2015-2020) for astroparticle physics research includes four large projects to be constructed starting from the middle of this decade.
In the domain of TeV gamma-ray astrophysics the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) is clearly the worldwide priority project. CTA is an initiative to build the next generation ground-based very high-energy gamma-ray observatory, combining proven technological feasibility with a guaranteed scientific perspective. Some 800 scientists from 25 countries around the world have already joined forces to build it.
Furthermore, KM3NeT, the next generation high-energy neutrino telescope in the Mediterranean Sea, is in its final stages of technology definition, with prototype deployment expected within the next 2-3 years. KM3NeT is an ESFRI project currently under an EU-funded preparatory phase, having obtained substantial regional funding.
Next is a global next-generation ground-based cosmic ray observatory following the footsteps of the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina and LAGUNA, a megaton-scale project for low energy neutrino physics and astrophysics. LAGUNA will combine the search for fundamental new phenomena in the cosmos with precise measurements of neutrinos from both cosmic and accelerator origins. LAGUNA is at the interface with the CERN European Strategy update to be delivered early 2013. It is currently under an EU-funded design study.
“What is described in the European strategy of astroparticle physics is great science. We look forward to seeing the first of these projects running” said Maurice Bourquin, Chairman of the ApPEC Steering Committee.
On longer time scales, very large infrastructures in the domain of dark energy or gravitational wave detection are considered and will need a global convergence or complementary approaches.
“We know that some of these large projects will need a global approach. It is why we invited our colleagues from other continents to discuss how we can succeed in implementing these infrastructures together” said Hermann-Friedrich Wagner, Chairman of the ASPERA Governing Board.
Astroparticle physics is a rapidly growing field of research, emerging from the convergence of particle physics and astrophysics. In the last decade, three Nobel prizes have been awarded to physicists working in areas close to astroparticle physics, demonstrating the relevance and vitality of this field.
Note for editors:
ApPEC is the Astroparticle Physics European Coordination. It was founded in 2001 when six European scientific agencies took the initiative to coordinate and encourage astroparticle physics in Europe. 11 countries are currently members of ApPEC.
ASPERA, the AStroParticle European Research Area is a network of European national funding agencies responsible for astroparticle physics. ASPERA is funded by the European Commission as an ERA-NET. ASPERA comprises currently 23 national funding agencies in 19 countries, and CERN European Organization.