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You're Invited to Join the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 11:56

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-IV) collaboration invites applications for institutional membership as we ramp up toward launch in July 2014 of three simultaneous photometric and spectroscopic surveys of the northern and southern skies at the Apache Point Observatory (APO) and Las Campanas Observatory. This is an opportunity to gain access to a cutting-edge data set from the most effective wide-field spectroscopic telescope in existence. It has been consistently ranked as one of the top astronomy collaborations as measured by numbers of publications and may be of particular interest to departments without other guaranteed telescope access and/or individual junior faculty now starting up their research groups. Expressions of interest are welcome anytime, but we seek to establish the core SDSS-IV membership by February 2014.

Principal contacts are Michael Blanton, SDSS4 Director, and Keivan Stassun, SDSS4 Executive Committee Chair.

The SDSS-IV collaboration currently has more than 40 confirmed member institutions in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Additional details about the project and procedures for joining can be found on the SDSS-IV website and are briefly summarized below.

Membership is available at the full institutional participation level, the associate level for individal faculty, or groups of institutions (participation groups).  This is an opportunity to be a full part of the survey from the start, including opportunities for finalizing design and targeting decisions, full access to proprietary data products, participation in any of the key science projects, opportunities to propose ancillary science projects, opportunities for collaboration with a large international group of other leading scientists, postdocs, and students, and opportunities for mentoring student research interns and for outreach including underrepresented minorities and minority-serving institutions.

The three main simultaneous surveys will operate for four to six years, beginning in July 2014:

The APO Galaxy Evolution Experiment 2 (APOGEE-2) will use high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy to explore the formation history of the Milky Way using the "archeological" record provided by hundreds of thousands of its individual stars. We will map the kinematic and chemical patterns of stars using observations from the Apache Point site and from the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, obtaining a complete view of our galaxy's history. Simultaneously, APOGEE will measure the abundance of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and iron in planet-hosting stars, to study the role that these elements play in the formation of terrestrial planets.

The Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) will precisely measure the expansion history of the universe throughout 80% of cosmic history, back to when the Universe was less than three billion years old, and improve constraints on the nature of dark energy, the most mysterious experimental result in modern physics. As part of the same survey it will conduct the first systematic spectroscopic study of variable stars, yielding a critical resource for the physical interpretation of sources discovered in time-domain imaging surveys such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO (MaNGA): Unlike previous surveys that measured light only at the centers of target galaxies, MaNGA will bundle sets of optical fibers into tightly-packed arrays, enabling spectral measurements across the face of each of 10,000 nearby galaxies. MaNGA's goal is to understand the "life cycle" of present-day galaxies from imprinted clues of their birth and assembly, through their ongoing growth via star formation and merging, to their death from quenching at late times.

Cost to Join
Full Institutional Membership includes an unlimited number of participants from the institution and requires a total contribution of $1.05 million. To accommodate institutions that cannot commit to a full membership, Associate Institutional Membership includes data rights for a specified number of Slots at $210,000 per slot. Finally, multiple individuals and/or institutions may join together as a Participation Group. Payments may be distributed over a five-year payment schedule.

Keivan Stassun
Vanderbilt University
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