With the launch of the Astro2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, the NRAO has been assisting the astronomical community in their efforts to determine the major scientific priorities and future instrumentation required for the coming decade.
In fall 2008, a working group was established by the NRAO to review the reports of many community groups, Observatory staff, and advisory committees – such as the McCray report to Associated Universities, Inc. and NRAO – and to identify the primary scientific themes in radio astronomy in the coming decade. Work with the community rapidly ramped up with the Astro2010 call for scientific and project white papers in January 2009. The NRAO staff participated in numerous science white papers that spell-out a clear and compelling program of groundbreaking research in areas ranging from the Solar System, to the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, back to the earliest galaxies in the Universe, and cosmology.
ALMA and the EVLA represent dramatic improvement in observational capabilities at centimeter through submillimeter wavelengths. These facilities will begin full operations early in the next decade. Likewise, planned upgrades to the GBT and the VLBA represent uniquely powerful resources for the astronomical community. Based on the science white papers, NRAO presented a series of project white papers to the Astro2010 Decadal Survey that build on the community’s major investments in these instruments and seek to enable dramatic scientific returns for only modest additional investment. These projects also build the scientific and technical vision for future large-scale radio arrays, as captured in the SKA program.
The NRAO also submitted a white paper to the Astro2010 Subcommittee on the State of the Profession that outlines the overall mission and vision of the Observatory in the next decade and beyond. Beyond building and operating a world-leading suite of major radio facilities, a primary goal of the Observatory is to make all of these facilities easily accessible to the full astronomical community. The NRAO also anticipates playing a major role in the technical and scientific development of the SKA program. In combination with large ground-based optical facilities, and future space observatories, the NRAO-operated radio facilities will continue to drive the exponential growth in astrophysical science and understanding through the next decade.