The Institute of Astrophysics (IA) was formally founded on March 2, 2018 and it commenced its operations in 2019. IA-FORTH was the natural evolution of the very active Astrophysics Group that had already been operating for nearly 30 years within the Institute of Electronic Structure and Lasers (IESL) – FORTH and the Department of Physics of the University of Crete. Over the past 15 years the members of the Astrophysics Group had published ~570 refereed papers making it the most productive and highly cited astrophysics group in Greece. Moreover, its members were awarded ~9.1MEuros in competitive research funding, including 2 ERC Consolidator Grants, and they trained 16 PhD students and 23 postdocs, 11 of which have since moved to permanent positions in academia.
The main research facility of IA-FORTH is Skinakas Observatory, which was founded in 1986 by FORTH, the University of Crete, and the Max-Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik. The Observatory is located at a distance of 50km from the city of Heraklion, on top the Psiloritis mountain, at an altitude of 1750 meters and it is currently jointly operated by the Institute and the Dept. of Physics of the University of Crete. It is worth mentioning that despite its proximity to Heraklion the quality of the atmosphere at Skinakas Observatory is superb, making it an ideal location for high-level astronomical observations. The 1.3m telescope of the observatory has been traditionally equipped with the latest astronomical instruments, including optical, near-IR cameras and a long slit spectrograph, as well as guest instruments such as OPTIMA an extremely fast μsec-cadence photometer. Over the past few years it hosts RoboPol, a specialized very accurate photopolarimeter designed specifically for this telescope.
Theorists of the group also routinely use the high performance computing facilities of FORTH as well as the Metropolis cluster of the Department of Physics.
The Institute has established long-term collaborations with research groups in leading institutes across the globe including Caltech and the Harvard Center for Astrophysics in the US, CEA-Saclay in France, MPE and MPIfr in Germany, and IUCCA in India.
Currently, fall 2019, the core of the Institute consists of one researcher and five affiliated faculty, as well as eight postdoctoral researchers and a dozen of PhD and MSc students.
The main goals of IA are to:
- perform cutting edge research in select areas of theoretical and observational astrophysics,
- train students and early stage researchers in acquiring technical and analytical skills so as to address outstanding open questions in astrophysics and beyond,
- engage the local community in public outreach activities
Prof. Vassilis Charmandaris
Director of IA-FORTH