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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
some source of stable base funding is needed to support experimental facilities. National laboratories, especially those under the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, may be the most dependable long-term reservoir of capability, given that most of these topics are no longer central to the interests of basic physics at universities. The work of compiling the data into useful catalogs and databases is probably still best done by astronomers, and it is vital to maintain databases of important astrophysical results. Such work might be done at national laboratories or at major data centers but has to be coordinated among all investigators.
CONCLUSION: DOE national laboratories, including those funded by theOffice of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, havemany unique facilities that can provide basic astrophysical data.
In summary, the need for laboratory astrophysics has increased because of new and highly capable observing modes that require investigation and because of the relevance of laboratory astrophysics to other physics and engineering problems. Thus a systematic, long-term, and robust funding strategy is required in order to ensure successful scientific returns from missions and programs. Support requires people, instrumentation, and maintenance of databases. NSF-AST support has been increasing, but at far from a sufficient rate to compensate for the loss of input from the atomic physics community and the increased needs of modern astronomical observations.
RECOMMENDATION: NASA and NSF support for laboratory astrophysicsunder the Astronomy and Physics Research and Analysis program and theAstronomy and Astrophysics Research Grants program, respectively, shouldcontinue at current or higher levels over the coming decade because laboratory astrophysics is vital for optimizing the science return from current andplanned facilities. Missions and facilities, including DOE projects, that willrequire significant amounts of new laboratory research results to reach theirscience goals should include within their program budgets adequate fundingfor the necessary experimental and theoretical investigations.