Mapping the future of European astroparticle physics research
Research priorities for the future of astroparticle physics, the emerging field which is achieving exciting results such as the landmark detection of gravitational waves, have been announced today at a European research community summit.
Astroparticle physicists from across Europe have gathered in Brussels, alongside international colleagues and guests from the European Commission, for the official announcement of the Astroparticle Physics European Consortium (APPEC) strategy.
Alongside gravitational waves – the detection of which in 2015 opened a new era of astronomy and earned the field the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics – neutrino, dark matter and gamma ray research are also high on the list of priorities being recommended for the coming decade in the latest European astroparticle physics strategy.
The strategies set out by APPEC reinforce the UK's priorities in the field, such as exploring the properties of neutrinos and discovering their role in cosmic evolution, and learning more about the fundamental constituents of the universe.
The UK continues to be heavily involved in gravitational wave research, as an active member of the LIGO collaboration as well as contributing to the Cherenkov Telescope Array project and supporting the work being undertaken to directly detect dark matter.
STFC Chief Executive Dr Brian Bowsher said: "The strategies set out in the APPEC roadmap strengthen the priorities already set out by the UK astroparticle physics community.
"The UK, through STFC, looks forward to collaborating with its European colleagues and making sure the community continues at the cutting edge of research. It is through these vital collaborations that astroparticle physicists will be able to explore new and fascinating realms of science and further our understanding of the Universe."
The report also includes recommendations addressing, in addition to the scientific issues, crucial organisational aspects as well as important societal issues such as gender balance, education, public outreach and relations with industry.
"This is such an exciting time for astroparticle physics," said Antonio Masiero, chair of APPEC and a physicist at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) and the University of Padua, Italy.
"Never before has our understanding of the fundamentals of our Universe been so great and yet, at the same time, never before have we faced so many un-answered questions to solve, such as what is dark matter that together with dark energy makes up a huge 95% of our Universe, or what is the mechanism that gives neutrinos mass, or even simply why matter (and therefore ourselves) even exists at all! Revealing the answers to these questions will tell us a lot about the origins, evolution and overall structure of the Universe, and will reshape our understanding of physics."