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A new Institute, the only in Greece dedicated exclusively to Astrophysics, will soon join the big family of the Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH), becoming its 7th Institute, after a legislation voted in the Greek Parliament on February 26th 2018.

The new Institute is the natural evolution of Astrophysics activities at the University of Crete (UoC) and FORTH that have been taking place in Crete for many years now. It aims to promote research in the field of Astrophysics, in terms of excellence and innovation and to become a critical parameter for the participation of the Country in international developments relevant to this field. It is envisaged that the Institute will also serve as a pole of attraction for scientists from abroad. The initiative to create the Institute of Astrophysics (IA) was cordially supported by the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, the Alternate Minister of Research and Innovation, the National Council for Research and Innovation and the Region of Crete.

The Astrophysics Group, which consists of FORTH Researchers and UoC Professors Collaborating with FORTH, will be incorporated in the new Institute. The team has accomplished impressive academic achievements by international standards, having attracted highly competitive European funding from the European Research Council and the Marie Curie programme of the European Union, amounting to more than 5 million euros. Additional funding has also been obtained from several other national and international sources. The establishment of the IA will serve as a catalyst, providing ample opportunity for collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and other related Organisations.

The research infrastructures necessary for the initial operations of the Institute are already in place. The Skinakas Observatory, which was founded in 1986 jointly by the Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas, the University of Crete and the Max-Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik in Germany, is located in the mountain of Psiloritis near the village of Anogia, at an altitude of 1.750 meters. It offers excellent observation conditions with atmosphere clarity being one of the best in Europe. The main 1.3 meter telescope is equipped with state-of-the-art astronomical instruments. More than 200 papers, based on observations made at the Skinakas Observatory, have already been published in international peer-reviewed scientific journals. The Observatory is currently being upgraded with new and unique instrumentation obtained with a € 1.3 million donation by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. 15 distinguished Astrophysicists around the world (including two Nobel laureates) expressed in enthusiastic terms Greece's promising potential to play a leading role at the forefront of Astrophysics research.

On the occasion of the Institute of Astrophysics formal establishment, the President of FORTH, Professor Nektarios Tavernarakis noted:

"The creation of the new Institute of Astrophysics at FORTH, comes as the long-awaited outcome of the outstanding research efforts and success of the FORTH Astrophysics Group. We expect that the Institute of Astrophysics will give Greece a competitive advantage towards attaining a prominent place in Europe in this highly active area of Research. The establishment of IA, is an important milestone for FORTH and the culmination of a long-lasting effort that has eventually been brought to fruition. It is also a significant step towards the repatriation of outstanding scientists”.

"The Institute of Astrophysics is an important asset for both FORTH and the University of Crete. The exceptional cooperation between the two Institutions has brought the desired result, "said Nikos Kylafis, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Crete and Collaborating Researcher at FORTH.

"Today is a great day for Greek science - a brilliant day for Crete" said Professor Giannis Papamastorakis, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Crete and Collaborating Researcher at FORTH, Founder of the Skinakas Observatory.