NOAO Small Telescopes Workshop
Preamble to Workshop Discussion Groups

Preamble: The following are some "major" functions that the smaller telescopes at NOAO presently support:

1. Support of education in science, particularly astronomy, across a wide range of institutions. This function includes access to telescopes by graduate students and post-docs from institutions that either do not own major telescopes or do not provide access for junior scientists. It also includes providing opportunities for research experiences for undergraduates and graduate students from small programs and primarily undergraduate institutions. Opportunities provided by open competitive access to these telescopes help maintain the scientific vitality of faculty in small departments or institutions where the cost of building and supporting a private telescopes is hard to justify.

2. Support of research at other wavelengths, notable radio astronomy and astronomy from space. Approximately half of those who used the smaller KPNO telescopes in the early 90's received their main research support from NASA, which we take as indicating that the observations at KPNO formed part of a project also involving (or emphasizing) data obtained with space-based facilties. Radio astronomers also have written to us detailing the importance of access to optical facilities to complete their projects.

3. Support of long-term or survey projects where large aperture is not required but many hours of telescope time are needed. Development of powerful new computational methods has made data- intensive monitoring projects such as "Macho" possible. Are there some major projects or surveys of general interest to the community that might make good use of some of the facilities on KPNO for which traditional funding is no longer available?

4. Provision of "gateway" facilities for larger telescopes. Since there are many new, large aperture telescopes are seeing first light between 1995 and 2005, the "gateway" function is expected to acqure new importance but also to likely have quite different requirements as these new telescopes are opened. Therefore, there is a workshop planned by NOAO for this spring to address just the 4th item, and we have chosen not to include it specifically in the topics for consideration today.

In addition to discussion of possible ways that these functional needs may be met, considered individually, we will consider today also the possibility that some creative operational models may contribute to defining the future for the telescopes. Therefore, the fourth discussion group will consider the possible role of innovative approaches to instrumentation and operation of small telescopes.

The difference between operations that "keep the doors open" and support, including timely instrumentation upgrades, that allows a telescope to remain competitive as a research instrument can be substantial, and this difference should be kept in mind in exploring options.

The main goal of the discussions today is to help define the announcement of opportunity that NOAO will issue for the smaller telescopes as their support from NOAO is discontinued. We are looking for ideas for ways that these telescopes may continue to be useful to astronomy, although perhaps with very different ownership or operations; we are also hoping to find ways to minimize the impact of premature closure of small national telescopes on science and education in astronomy. Thus, the discussion will naturally tend to focus on the NOAO facilities. At the same time, it is important in all these sessions that the complementary functions of local and/or independently operated observatories also be kept in mind, including new kinds of partnerships or new roles for these non-NOAO facilities.

Discussion group A: The use of small telescopes for educational purposes, including to provide research opportunities for faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions, in small astronomy programs, or in non- astronomy environments.

Questions for the discussion:

Discussion group B: The use of small telescopes for support of observations at other wavelengths and/or from space.

Questions for the discussion:

Discussion group C: The use of small telescopes for large projects - surveys, long-term monitoring, and longitude- coverage networks.

Questions for the discussion:

Discussion group D: Innovative approaches to the instrumentation and operation of small telescopes - private or at NOAO - for use by a wide community of observers.

Questions for the discussion:

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Posted: 22May1997