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NOAO Newsletter - Director's Office - September 2000 - Number 63

NOAO --- A Partnership with the Community

Todd Boroson

One of the important principles of the new paradigm for O/IR astronomy set out in the AASC report and the associated O/IR Panel report is that NOAO should work in partnership with the community. We take this principle to mean that efforts on specific projects--including instrument development--should include participation from outside NOAO. We also take it to mean that the activity of identifying NOAO's new directions should take into account what is being done at other institutions and should involve the community. We have found that a particularly effective way of doing this is to hold community workshops. Over the next six months, we plan to hold three workshops aimed at discussing (1) the system of public and private facilities for O/IR astronomy, (2) the science case for the Giant Segmented-Mirror Telescope, and (3) the science and operations for the Large-aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope. Following each of these workshops, a report will appear on the NOAO Web site.

Workshop on the "System"

The McKee-Taylor Decadal Survey report lays out a new paradigm for ground-based O/IR astronomy: that "all facilities, whether nationally or inde-pendently operated, should be viewed as a single integrated system . . ." The report argues that this view should guide discussions about what new capabilities are needed and how resources can be most effectively used. Most broadly, the "system" comprises all the capabilities that end-to-end allow scientific research to be carried out. Examples of such capabilities are telescopes, instruments, observing modes, data archives and analysis software, and funding that supports research.

As an initial step toward an understanding of the components of this system, how they work together and what capabilities are desirable over the next decade, NOAO is organizing the first workshop on the Ground-Based O/IR System. The strength and evolution of the system will be considered in the context of the international astronomy landscape, and desirable new capabilities will be identified based on the scientific aspirations of the participants, representing the broad community. The NSF Astronomy division has indicated interest in this workshop and plans to send a representative. The workshop will be jointly chaired by Alan Dressler (Chair of the AASC O/IR Panel) and Todd Boroson. Contact Todd Boroson ( for further information.

Workshop on the Science Case for the GSMT

The Giant Segmented-Mirror Telescope is a 30-m class O/IR telescope recommended as a high priority for the coming decade by the McKee-Taylor Decadal Survey report. NOAO, through its New Initiatives Office, has initiated an effort to develop viable design concepts for this telescope. This work depends on substantial community involvement in all phases and aspects, from understanding the scientific drivers to carrying out the technical design studies. One of the early challenges is to achieve a deeper understanding of the scientific capabilities that will drive design decisions for GSMT and its instruments.

A workshop is being organized for mid-September to bring together groups who will discuss how broad science goals of the future translate into prioritized capabilities of the telescope and instruments (e.g., wavelength optimization, field of view, AO requirements). As a result of these discussions, the groups will identify the scientific trade studies needed to improve the prioritization of telescope and instrument capabilities. In order to enable a focused discussion, the panels will consider science goals in the fields of galaxy evolution and large-scale structure, stellar populations, and star and planet formation. The group discussions will be chaired by Frank Shu, Marc Postman, and Rosemary Wyse. NOAO contacts for the workshop are Steve Strom (, Joan Najita (, and Arjun Dey (

Workshop on Science and Operations for the LSST

The Large-aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope is a special-purpose facility, envisioned to conduct repetitive imaging surveys of the entire visible sky in search of moving, transient, or variable objects and to build up deep images of selected regions. The database generated will have a myriad of uses and will also provide a basic resource for observations in other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and for outreach. The concept for data distribution is to make all data available to qualified researchers as quickly as possible, though of course the sequence of telescope pointings must be determined by some scientific strategy.

In order to understand the facility design and operations requirements of various scientific programs that could be carried out with the LSST and how they could be combined into a coherent approach, NOAO is organizing a workshop on Science and Operations for the LSST. This workshop will bring together groups representing the major scientific programs that are being considered for LSST: (1) time-domain studies such as discovering Earth-crossing asteroids, searches for high-redshift supernovae, and microlensing surveys; (2) moderately deep very wide field studies such as searches for rare types of stars in the halo; and (3) very deep narrower field studies such as mapping dark matter through weak lensing. These groups will discuss the requirements of their various programs to better understand what combinations could be effectively mergedin terms of both the expected performance of the facility and its operations strategy. NOAO contacts for this workshop are Todd Boroson ( and Richard Green (

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