importance in solar physics. The combination of these factors leads to a need for an increase in the level of support for laboratory astrophysics.
There is also an increased interest in non-traditional areas of laboratory astrophysics such as high-energy-density phenomena. Realization of the importance of magnetized plasmas in interstellar and intergalactic space has generated a need for basic information on the behavior of such plasmas, often in physical regimes far from those currently being studied for their application to magnetic fusion reactors. Laboratory measurements will allow us to understand the formation of molecules in interstellar space and stellar atmospheres, both critical for studies of star formation, for example by studying the complex chemical reactions on the surface of dust grains. DOE’s high-energy-density facilities26 will be able to host laboratory astrophysics experiments relevant to outstanding questions in radiative hydrodynamics, equation-of-state measurements relevant to planetary interiors, and turbulent flow. Those facilities are also performing experiments important to high-energy astrophysics, specifically involving the behavior of hot plasmas and dynamical magnetic field configurations.
The Science Frontiers Panel reports call out specific needs for research in laboratory astrophysics in order to accomplish the proposed research objectives for the next decade. New capabilities require expanded laboratory astrophysics research in the X-ray, UV, millimeter and submillimeter, and IR regimes as missions such as Herschel, JWST, and ALMA go forward. The SFP reports highlight the need for tabulation of spectral features for ions, molecules, and clusters of atoms. Additionally, measurements of gas-phase cross sections, for example of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules found in star-forming regions, are needed to understand the absorption features seen in the spectra of galactic objects. A better understanding of dust and ice absorption spectra and the chemistry of molecule formation is also needed.
NSF-PHY support for laboratory astrophysics has declined to about one-third of that provided two decades ago. Despite an increase in the number of NSF-AST laboratory astrophysics awards in atomic and molecular physics, the combined NSF-PHY plus NSF-AST laboratory astrophysics support has fallen to about half of what it was 20 years ago.
Short-term funding for laboratory astrophysics, such as that tied to observing cycles, is inadequate for the health of stable laboratory astrophysics programs, and