The missions of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris
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The missions of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris



The joint status of the IAP, both as an “Observatory for Sciences of the Universe” (OSU) and as a "Mixed Research Unit" (UMR), means it has three principal activities: research, education and public outreach.

I - Research

    The IAP’s main activity is research. It is principally focused on astronomy, astrophysics, theoretical physics, and interdisciplinary subjects in connection with high energy physics and mathematics. Research at the IAP has four main goals:

    • Astronomy is principally an observational science and as such, astronomical observations are a major focus of the research at the IAP. The scientists use national and international facilities all around the world such as the Observatoire of Haute Provence, the Nancay radiotelescope in France, as well as the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope in Hawaii, the telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, etc. Space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Planck, Herschel and Gaia satellites are massively used in the research projects conducted at IAP.
    • The IAP is moreover deeply involved in the scientific preparation of both the ground- and space-based instruments. The IAP scientists take on great responsibilities in large international space missions such as Planck, Herschel and now Euclid.
    • Observations supply scientists with a great deal of data. Processing these observations with powerful computers, in order to transform raw data into useful results that are ready for interpretation, and sometimes generating large catalogues, is yet another key activity at the IAP.
    • Another important goal is to model these observations, using numerical simulations, as well as theoretical studies of astrophysical phenomena, objects or systems (from planets to the origins of the Universe), in order to describe their nature, evolution and their interactions.

    Although an important and necessary activity of the astronomical community, it should be noted that the IAP is not involved in designing or making the hardware necessary for the completion of new astronomical instruments.

II - Education

    The scientific training of students and doctorate researchers is essential for the future of astrophysical sciences. Courses are principally held at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) and are taught by IAP staff members. University classes are given at all levels, for undergraduate and doctoral students alike. Because astronomy is usually rarely taught in middle or high schools, IAP researchers also participate in the training of teachers.

III - Outreach

    Astronomy has always been popular with the public as a consequence of the profound questions it poses, and because it reveals the nature of the objects one sees in the night sky. Consequently, research establishments such as the IAP play an important role in sharing their knowledge about astronomy, and most importantly in informing about the most recent discoveries thanks to expert researchers. This is why the IAP regularly participates in nationwide events such as the “Science Festival”. It also organizes public lectures on a monthly basis.

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