Space Experts Plot Course on Road Map to the Stars; 300 Academics Meet for City Conference

Article excerpt

Byline: BY LAURA SHARPE Daily Post Staff

HUNDREDS of astronomy professors from across the world have been in Liverpool debating the future of space exploration.

A telescope project costing 1.5bn euros, to search for ex-terrestrial life, and a space antenna to detect gravitational waves from black holes, are just two of the ideas discussed over the past three days.

More than 300 delegates converged on the BT Conference Centre to discuss draft plans in the Road Map to the Stars.

The "road map" agreed at the conference will act as a blueprint for all space development and research over the next 20 years.

The conference, organised by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) is part of the Astronet initiative set up by European space agencies to help devise a priority list for the programme.

One of the plans is for a Square Kilometre Array, a project in which telescopes will be networked across locations such as Australia and South Africa.

Another project, the 42mdiameter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), will provide a view of 80% of the sky.

One of the most exciting goals of the E-ELT is to explore the "habitable" zone in space, an area around stars which might be suitable for life.

Johannes Andersen, Astronet board chair and director of the Nordic optical telescope, on La Palma, said: "We don't know what our next discovery might be. I remember discussing whether there were planets around our stars over 15 years ago.

"We now know they are there because the Swiss discovered it, but even now we still haven't the foggiest about 85% of matter, so there's a lot of work still to do. …