NOAO Currents

February 2010  •  Issue 12

 

Currents

In this Issue…

SOC Opportunity (Science with Optical Interferometry - An Invitation to Join the SOC): NOAO is collaborating with the Magdalena Ridge Observatory to plan a community-based conference and workshop on Science with Optical Interferometry. We invite interested community members to join the Science Organizing Committee for this meeting. Planning will begin in Spring 2010.

Conversation (Taking Our Show on the Road): Are you interested in learning more about any or all aspects of the NOAO program? Do you want to discuss your views on our program and its future? We would be glad to visit your group, department, or regional meeting to talk about the NOAO program and hear your thoughts. Please contact us to set up a visit.

Your input is welcome on any of these issues. Please send your thoughts to currents@noao.edu.

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Science with Optical Interferometry
- An Invitation to Join the SOC

Magdalena

Aerial view of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer. The telescopes and facility building are shown as renderings in this view of the MROI site. The main facility building, however, was completed in 2008.

The rapid recent and on-going development of optical interferometry is offering astronomers a new, precision tool with angular resolution of order 1 milliarcsec. Though the number of interferometry science publications now exceeds 400, the technique and its potential are still not widely known. Encouraged by a recommendation from the ReSTAR report, and by community input tabulated in the ALTAIR Report, NOAO continues to follow the field closely and to watch for opportunities to open interferometry access to the community, as for example through Keck TSIP time and the recent NOAO call for proposals for the CHARA Array.

The 2006 workshop Future Directions for Interferometry sponsored by NOAO, AURA, and CHARA was primarily an interferometry community meeting tasked with short- and long-range planning. Subsequent to discussions at the workshop, the community-based US Interferometry Consortium worked to build a consensus and forward recommendations to the Decadal Review promoting wider access to interferometry facilities.

To further explore and advance this theme, NOAO is collaborating with the Magdalena Ridge Observatory to plan a conference and workshop on Science with Optical Interferometry. Neither the date nor venue are decided, but mid-2011 and a New Mexico location are under consideration. The 2011 meeting will aim to engage the scientific community in using existing optical interferometers to address key science questions, to fully exploit the capabilities of the current generation of instruments, and to identify scientific requirements for the next generation of instrumentation for the existing infrastructure of optical interferometers. The workshop is to be science-driven, as opposed to engineering-driven.

We therefore invite interested community members to join the Science Organizing Committee (SOC) for this conference. We are particularly eager to attract the interest of potential users of interferometry who may bring new perspectives on science opportunities. Interferometry has a proven track record in studies of bright, compact sources (primarily stars and AGN), with applications including stellar rotation, convection and pulsation, winds and mass loss, disks, companions and orbits. Expertise/experience in any of these or similar areas, and interest in the potential of very high angular resolution, would be an excellent basis for participation.

The current schedule envisions planning discussions on the scope and organization of the meeting beginning in the spring of 2010. The long lead time is intended to allow ample opportunity to develop the objectives, plans, agenda and invited speakers. An active SOC is vital to this work.

If you are interested in participating in the SOC, or for information or discussion, please contact Steve Ridgway (sridgway@noao.edu).

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Taking Our Show on the Road

Community engagement is an important part of the NOAO mission. We want you to know what we are doing, and we want to know what you think we should be doing. While we broadcast messages about our program through Currents and the NOAO Newsletter, sometimes there is no substitute for face-to-face discussion. A town hall meeting at the AAS is one effective approach, but AAS meetings are busy, and the time available for discussion on any one topic is quite limited.

Another approach would be for someone from NOAO to visit your group, department, or regional meeting to talk about the NOAO program and hear your thoughts.

If you are interested in such a visit, please let us know. We are flexible about the format. We can fit into a regular colloquium slot, or we can set up something more elaborate -- a display booth, a coffee-hour Q&A session, or another format that better fits your interests.

Perhaps you would like to discuss new instruments for NOAO facilities? Or perhaps you have an opinion about how we can optimize the community's use of the Gemini telescopes? Or perhaps you are interested in getting an update on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and how you will be able to use the data from this powerful facility. We would be glad to describe any or all aspects of the current NOAO program and hear your thoughts on what the next steps should be.

If you would like to set up a visit from an NOAO scientist, who can present the NOAO program, hear your thoughts, answer your questions, and carry back your message, please contact Laurie Phillips in the NOAO Director's office (lphillips@noao.edu, 520-318-8283). We look forward to hearing from you!

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Contact Us

Did something interesting, inspiring, or surprising happen on a recent observing run? Please tell us about it! Is there a topic that you would like to see covered in a future Currents? If you are planning a regional astronomy meeting or department internal symposium, would you like someone from NOAO to give a presentation on our new program? Please contact us at currents@noao.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!


In this Issue

Currents is a sparkplug for communication between NOAO and our community. It provides updates—and solicits community input—on NOAO observing opportunities and NOAO programs and policies on a more rapid timescale than is possible with the quarterly NOAO Newsletter.

NOAO is the national center for ground-based nighttime astronomy in the United States and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

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