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Looking AHEAD in the high-energy Universe

AHEAD2020 is the H2020 infrastructure program for the High-Energy Astrophysics Domain recently approved by EU. Scientists and engineers from 38 research institutions and companies in 16 European countries will pool their talents to develop cutting-edge technologies and research infrastructure to learn more about the universe at high energies.

AHEAD2020 builds on the previous program, AHEAD, that was successfully completed February this year. It focused on infrastructures and technology for future high-energy satellites, in particular the Athena mission, the large X-ray space observatory due to be launched by the European Space Agency in 2030.
AHEAD activities have led to a strong improvement in the technologies for mirrors, sensor and background, to such an extent that most of the AHEAD-led studies are now being incorporated into the design of the instruments for Athena. Similar studies were carried out for the benefit of space-based gamma-ray missions focusing on the transient and multimessenger, strengthening the link between X-ray and gamma-ray communities.
AHEAD’s consortium also carried out a pilot investigation to see whether the technologies in use at its member organizations could be applied to fields other than astrophysical research. It identified a high-spectral resolution X-ray microcalorimeter cryogenic detector in a Particle Induced X-ray Emission system as suitable for non-invasive analysis in biology, fine art and archeological items or for high-sensitivity environmental measurements.
AHEAD delivered a strong visiting programme, that provided young astronomers with the theoretical and practical skills to exploit current and future generation of facilities. It opened up facilities for space-based environmental test to a wider community, including SMEs and disseminated the results to a wider audience through workshops and educational material. One video for planetary, translated into more than a dozen languages, reached an audience of 10 million people.

The successful conclusion of its acitivities allowed the AHEAD community to qualify at the advanced stage, a fundamental pre-requisite for the successful bid achieved with AHEAD2020. The overall objective remains to advance further the integration of national efforts in high-energy astrophysics keeping the community at the cutting edge of science and technology and ensuring that observatories are at the state of the art. At the same time, AHEAD2020 aims at widening its horizons to further integrate activities with the newly born multi-messenger astronomy, boosted very recently by the discovery of gravitational waves and cosmic neutrinos and of their first high energy counterparts. This will be achieved by involving a new larger community of high energy astronomers, gravitational wave and astro-particle scientists.
AHEAD2020 will strengthen the link between the theoretical efforts and the results of the observations of multimessenger sources; and continue opening the best infrastructures for data analysis of high-energy space and ground observatories. Furthermore it will integrate key infrastructures for on-ground test and calibration of space-based instrumentation and promote their coordinated use. Technological developments will focus on the improvement of selected detector, optics devices and advanced analysis tools for the benefit of future space missions and ground-based multimessenger facilities, with more emphasis on the observation of the new transient Universe. This will include the new venue of micro-satellite constellations. AHEAD2020 will support the community via grants for collaborative studies, dissemination of results, and promotion of workshops and a strong public outreach package will ensure that the domain is well publicized at both national and international level. It will also contribute to the benefit of society and to the growth of the European technology market, with specific studies of devices for cultural heritage, material composition and environmental monitoring, as well as the creation of a new generation of researcher. AHEAD2020 is expected to kick off the activities around March 2020.

Luigi Piro

Contacts:Luigi Piro,AHEAD2020 coordinator

AHEAD web page:

AHEAD on YouTube: