ERIDANUS, exploring the universe from Mexico

Astronomy is undergoing a dramatic revolution in terms of ability to monitor the time-variability of the Universe in a continuous way using new facilities coupled with fast computers. This opening of the temporal domain is transforming our knowledge of how the Universe evolves, particularly for objects which are undergoing explosive change, such as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). These explosive events can release enormous amounts of energy both in electromagnetic radiation and in non-electromagnetic forms such as neutrinos and gravitational waves. They lie at the frontier our understanding of the laws of physics under the most extreme conditions.

Laying the first stones of Colibri

France and Mexico are presently developing a robotic telescope named COLIBRI, especially designed for the study of the deep and transient sky. To stimulate the scientific exploitation of this new facility much beyond its core team of the builders, CNRS, CNES and Aix-Marseille University in France, and UNAM in Mexico have established an IRP named ERIDANUS (ExploRIng the Deep And traNsient UniverSe) to promote the exchanges between scientists. Its profound motivation is therefore to establish a very strong collaboration on several topics in order to contribute to key scientific questions, which will benefit to COLIBRI and the observational capabilities and scientific expertise of each of the partners.

The scientific questions posed are vast and in line with the major priorities of the national and international communities:

  • What are the physical properties of Trans-Neptunian Objects, the most distant known bodies in our Solar System? How are these physical properties related to the orbital parameters? What can this tell us about the formation and evolution of our Solar System?
  • How are planetary systems formed? How do the planets evolve? How can we explain their diversity?
  • Do low-mass stars and brown dwarves form and evolve in the same way as stars like our Sun?
  • How do massive stars form and what is their impact their surrounding medium in galaxies? What is their role in triggering the formation of new generations of stars?
  • How does the large-scale distribution of matter (in the form of diffuse gas, stars, or dark matter) affect the formation and evolution of galaxies?
  • What are the astrophysical sources at the origin of the observed gravitational waves and the highly energetic neutrinos? What are the mechanisms behind the most violent phenomena in the universe, such as the GRBs? Can we use these transient sources to probe the early Universe?
  • When did the first stars and galaxies form? What is their nature? How much do they contribute to the reionisation of the universe?
  • At the same time, we also wish to initiate collaboration on future astronomical instruments.
The first ERIDANUS meeting

In order to contribute to these scientific questions and strengthen the links between France and Mexico, ERIDANUS:

  • Provides financial supports for stays in France and Mexico. To simplify its management, France supports only the French visits to Mexico (and vice versa).
  • Organizes a yearly workshop (during the three first years) and an international conference (last year), the place alternating between France and Mexico. The idea is to bring scientists together for few days in a nice place in order to review the state of existing collaborations and to initiate new ones.
  • Promotes PhDs in partnership between the two countries.

The first workshop of ERIDANUS took place in Toulouse, at the Maison Universitaire Franco-Mexicaine (MUFRAMEX), in June 2019. It was an opportunity to bring together 30 Mexican and French researchers in a relaxed but constructive atmosphere thanks to the remarkable environment offered by MUFRAMEX. It was a real success and everyone praised the high level of the scientific discussions, but also, and above all, the very pleasant spirit of the meeting.

The next meeting of the network will take place in Mexico (Puebla most probably) in the first week of June. Of course, everyone is welcome!

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