The present proposal is essentially a continuation and extension of the well-evaluated P4/05, with, for
2002-2006, the entry of a fourth partner. Indeed, during the first period (1997-2001) our Inter University
Attraction Pole (IUAP) encompassed three astrophysics departments, i.e. those from the Universities of
Liège and Leuven and that of the Royal Observatory in Brussels; the new partner will come from the
"Vrije Universiteit Brussel".
The research project outlined here reflects the diverse and complementary scientific expertises and interests of the partners, and involves different levels according to which the collaborations between the research groups presently exist and are planned for the future.
As outlined by the external evaluators, the common research on the subject of asteroseismology, which since long belongs to some of the main interests of all the partners, appears at the moment as the "most united field" in the collaboration. In this area, the IUAP has already led to the establishment of the Belgian Asteroseismology Group (BAG), which will now intensify its activities.
In several domains (stellar evolution, properties of massive stars, extragalactic astronomy, space research in multiple wavebands) the partners are involved at different levels. On all these subjects collaborations exist between two or more partners of the consortium, and the framework of the IUAP will be used to develop the common interests and collaborations in these fields, combining the complementary expertises and access to facilities of the different partners. This of course includes the succesful development of optical telescopes, conventional or of a very different type, such as the International Liquid Mirror Telescope.
In addition, while education in Belgium is organised by the communities, astronomy as a scientific discipline is considered as a 'federal matter', due to the existence of the Royal Observatory and the organisation at the federal level of the Belgian involvement in international organisations such as ESA and ESO. This IUAP project is the only large-scale scientific collaboration in astrophysics at the national level, and it therefore is appropriate to take advantage of it to coordinate new initiatives which may enhance the impact of Belgian astronomy in the future. In this context, a third and major ambition of this IUAP is to foster common initiatives in high-angular-resolution astronomy in general, with a particular emphasis on a vigourous Belgian involvement in the construction and scientific exploitation of the interferometry mode at the VLT (VLTI) of ESO.
The following sections will describe the Scientific Rationale of the proposal, along the five major themes of the collaboration (as outlined by the ex-post evaluators of P4/05) :
Asteroseismology Stellar and galactic evolution Massive luminous stars and high
Extragalactic astrophysics and the International Liquid
Mirror Telescope (ILMT) ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI)
and astrophysical studies at very high angular resolution