Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - ASTROCENTER (Development of an Astrophysics Center in Crete)

The principal objectives of the ASTROCENTER project were twofold. The first was to train the local staff, graduate students, and incoming ERs in the optimum usage and scientific exploitation of the acquired infrastructure of Skinakas Observatory. The second was to develop key scientific collaborations with leading European institutes in order to develop a pole of scientific excellence in observational astrophysics in the outskirts of Europe. The assessment of the PI that these goals were achieved and a detailed 30 page report of all activities stimulated by the present ToK project is attached as a supplementary file.

In the following we highlight a few key points pertaining to the realization of these objects and the overall scientific impact of the project. The Astrophysics group in Crete in the years prior to the commencement of the ASTROCENTER project had invested over ~500,000 Euros in hardware upgrades at Skinakas observatory. This included the acquisition of wide-field near-infrared camera, the development of an echelle spectrograph, and the modification of the control and guiding of the 1.3m telescope in order to enable both the remote usage of the facility, as well as the usage of the OPTIMA instrument in loan from MPE/Garching (Germany). Furthermore in terms of manpower the group hired three tenure track researchers (P. Reig, I. Papadakis, and V. Charmandaris) in the field of observational astrophysics in the period 2000-2005. This investment in both infrastructure and personnel would not reach its full potential if the ToK project had not materialized. The presence of incoming MERs with experience in both hardware and science as well as the enthusiasm of young bright and motivated incoming ERs was a catalyst in the scientific evolution of the group. In terms of key quantitative elements of this impact we highlight the following:
The near-infrared camera was commissioned at the 1.3m telescope. The camera is currently operational and data acquired will be used in the PhD thesis of T. Bitsakis (2nd year PhD student of V. Charmandaris) - The OPTIMA high-speed photometer has been operated for the past three observing seasons. The local staff were trained to its usage and a series of papers, including one in the renowned journal "Nature", have resulted from it. - Operation of the 1.3m facility in remote mode has been tested and it is functional. In particular the 0.6m telescope is 100% remote controlled via the web and used routinely via a collaboration with Capella Observatory (Germany).

All three incoming ERs have successfully completed their 24 month training and moved to new academic positions.

The incoming MERs interacted extensively with the local staff and fulfilled their roles in the training and identification of key research areas to be pursued in the future.

The secondment of the local staff was successful. The three junior faculty (Prof. Charmandaris, Prof. Papadakis, and Dr Reig) enriched their research record and as a result they have been promoted to the level of Associate Professor/Researcher. Furthermore an indirect consequence of their secondments they were also invited to join large European collaborative projects on current (Herschel, XMM-Newton) and upcoming (SPICA/SAFARI, IXO) space missions.

The astronomy graduate program supported by the members of the group has been stimulated attracting new PhD and Master students.

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