About this Research Topic
Astronomy, astrophysics, and space science are all dynamic and rapidly evolving fields. While it is impossible to accurately predict the development of a field a decade or more into the future, the exercise of vision-making provides our best opportunity to anticipate – and, so, plan for – our field’s future needs, and prepare our minds to recognize future opportunities – and, so, exploit them when they arise.
Evidence of the importance of vision-making abounds: one need only look at the success of the many targeted investments made possible by a vision made real:
· The discovery of water on the Moon and Mars, geysers on the satellites of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, and dynamism on Pluto;
· The finding that exo-planetary systems are common and include many examples of planets that show all the signs of being habitable;
· Evidence of cosmogenic neutrinos, and cosmic rays originating in active galactic nuclei;
· A mysterious “Dark Energy”, leading to an accelerating expansion of the Universe;
· Understandings of planetary geodynamos, atmospheres and weather; the feedback mechanism that connects galactic evolution with galactic nucleus activity; and the formation of first stars and galaxies, all made possible by the wide availability of scientific supercomputing resources world-wide; and
· The detection of gravitational waves and the inauguration of gravitational wave astronomy with the discovery of a population of black holes of entirely unexpected mass.
None of these discoveries or new understandings was foretold; nevertheless, each was made possible by the vision of a new vista on the cosmos: a vision borne where the frontiers of present scientific understanding, technology, and technical capability meet. From such visions flow plans and, ultimately, the kind of targeted investments, made at the behest of the scientific community by governments and private foundations, that make the vision real.
The goal of the Imagining the Future research topic is to encourage vision-making – grounded in frontier science, technology and technological capabilities – at all levels. It will provide a centralized, peer-reviewed, and freely and readily-accessible venue for future-looking and forward-thinking
· “State of The Science” surveys of the experimental, observational, technological, and theoretical foundation that undergirds frontier astronomy, astrophysics, and space science understanding and exploration today;
· Reviews of the target science, capabilities, and anticipated impact of ground- and space-based observatories, robotic missions, and laboratory astrophysics experiments now under construction, commissioning or near deployment;
· Technology assessments addressing new or existing capabilities that could be meaningfully leveraged to facilitate, enhance, or accelerate the development of future generation astronomical, space science, or laboratory astrophysics instrumentation;
· Critical analyses of challenges facing observational, experimental or robotic exploration, or data analysis; and
· Proposals for targeted investments in general infrastructure, focused theoretical investigations, approaches to data analysis or fusion, new or improved ground- and space-based observatories, robotic exploration, and laboratory astrophysics investigations, and personnel that will most advance knowledge and understanding in astronomy, astrophysics, and space science.
Keywords: Galaxies, Big Data, Astrobiology, Exoplanets, Future Missions, Solar System Exploration, Planetary Magnetism, Planetary Dynamos, Astronomical Instrumentation, Development Spectroscopy, Gravitational Waves, Gravitational Waves Detectors, Cosmology, Astrophysics, Space Robotics, Stellar Physics, Solar Physics, Planetary Materials, Geomagnetism, Fundamental Astronomy, Plasma Physics, Atmospheric Science, Milky Way
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.