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Radio star gazing gets European boost

Plugging the Hubble-James Webb gap

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This week sees the launch of RadioNet - a three-pronged programme to boost European radio astronomy.

Using a big chunk of EC funding, the programme unites a broad group of institutes to collaborate in research and to improve communication within the astonomy community.

Organisers hope it will prepare the European radio astronomers for the next generation of telescopes and arrays currently being planned and built. This will require a more co-ordinated approach from the community, if observers are to get the most out of the new facilities.

A prime objective is to encourage more communication between astronomers working at different wavelengths - from X-ray, radio and infrared to the optical range. Collaboration on this scale will be vital to fill the gap between Hubble and the launch of the James Webb space telescope in 2011.

The first part of the programme, Trans-National Access, aims to increase the number of European radio-astronomers using the many radio telescopes run by Europe, including the 217-km MERLIN array in the UK and the James Clark Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The programme will cover the running costs of the facility and the travel expenses of the astronomers.

The next strand is a trio of technical R&ampD initiatives aimed at improving the useability, efficiency and scope of radio astronomy. More details here.

RadioNet will provide networking opportunities for radio, and other, astronomers. Among other things, it will fund science and engineering workshops, working visits between institutes and training schools.

RadioNet has 20 partners ranging from radio telescope facility operators to laboratories specialising in micro-electronics, MMIC design and constructing super-conducting components.

The first RadioNet-funded workshop: 'Dense Molecular Gas around Protostars and Galactic Nuclei', was held on 17-20 February in the Netherlands. ®

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