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American Astronomical Society Endorses Astro2010 Decadal Survey

13 Aug 2010

AAS Press Release

August 13, 2010

Contacts:
Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116

Dr. Kevin Marvel
AAS Executive Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x114

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, today endorsed the decadal survey recommending priorities for the most important scientific and technical activities of the next 10 years in astronomy and astrophysics. These include a balance of small, medium, and large initiatives, with ground- and space-based telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum. The report of the Astro2010 Survey Committee, more than two years in the making, was released this morning during a briefing and webcast at the Keck Center of the National Academies in Washington, DC.

The Society’s endorsement reads as follows:

“The American Astronomical Society enthusiastically endorses the Astro2010 Decadal Survey: New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Given recent advances in technology and understanding, this is a time of extraordinary opportunity for research in astronomy and astrophysics. This report is based on a comprehensive community-driven process and presents exciting yet realistic recommendations for the next decade. The AAS urges the astronomical community to support the report and its priorities.”

New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics is the sixth in a series of surveys produced every 10 years by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Many of today’s most powerful and scientifically productive ground- and space-based telescopes were built following the recommendations of earlier decadal surveys.

The 23-member Astro2010 Survey Committee, chaired by Roger Blandford (Stanford University), surveyed the entire field, from science to infrastructure, and assessed ground- and space-based activities in astronomy and astrophysics, including both new and previously identified concepts. Their recommendations for the coming decade are addressed to the agencies supporting the field (chiefly NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy), the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over those agencies, the scientific community, and the public.

“Nothing is more important to our discipline than the release of the decadal survey recommendations,” says AAS Executive Officer Kevin B. Marvel. “Congress, the White House, and the funding agencies applaud us for undertaking this effort, and they will use our community priorities to allocate federal resources to astronomy and astrophysics projects.”

During its lengthy study, Blandford’s committee weighed input from a sizable fraction of the nation’s astronomers and space scientists. Nearly 200 served on scientifically or technically themed panels or infrastructure study groups. More than 300 “white papers” were submitted reviewing our current understanding and future directions in studies of planetary systems, the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies, and cosmology, along with another 100 or so describing new missions, observatories, and projects. About 150 reports were received concerning the state of the profession, the need for certain types of technology development, and challenges in theory, computation, and laboratory astrophysics. And hundreds of scientists participated in 17 “town hall” meetings that members of the survey committee convened across the country from Hawaii to New England.

John P. Huchra (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), AAS Past-President and Chair of the AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, is also a member of the Astro2010 Survey Committee. “Every party in the astronomical community had multiple opportunities to provide input,” says Huchra. “I think that’s why the AAS was so quick to endorse the Astro2010 report: the Society recognized and admired the inclusivity of the process that led to it.”

“This is broadly representative of what U.S. astronomers want to see happen in the coming decade,” says AAS President Debra M. Elmegreen (Vassar College), who is also on Blandford’s committee. “The survey report presents many exciting opportunities for our field. In addition to the breakthrough science that would be supported by the recommended projects and missions, there are also many suggestions concerning the astronomical enterprise, including issues such as education and training, diversity, data handling, and benefits to the nation.”

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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (prepublication version):
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12951

More information about the Astro2010 Decadal Survey:
http://sites.nationalacademies.org/bpa/BPA_049810

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,000 also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Among its many activities, the AAS publishes three of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field: The Astrophysical Journal, The Astronomical Journal, and Astronomy Education Review.