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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
FIGURE 6.4 Artist’s conception of the ALMA array with roads, in the extended configuration. SOURCE: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO).
$10 million can be compared to NRAO funding ($67 million per year). The small facilities provide unique scientific capabilities, training, and technical development, particularly for millimeter and submillimeter observations.
The NSF-AST-supported ground-based OIR facilities include the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)-operated optical telescopes at Kitt Peak in Arizona and Cerro Tololo in Chile that are 4 meters (Mayall and Blanco) or smaller in diameter and are aging in terms of infrastructure. They also include a half share with international partners—the United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina—in each of the 8-meter northern (Mauna Kea) and southern (Cerro Pachon) Gemini telescopes (Figure 6.5). The Blanco and Mayall telescopes are being refurbished, partly in connection with DOE-supported dark energy projects. Gemini-North features an operational laser guide star AO system, and there is the promise within a few years of multi-conjugate AO at Gemini-South to produce high-resolution images over a wide field of view. However, as discussed in the NSF-AST senior review and elsewhere, the Gemini Observatory has been slow in providing the community with the world-class instruments that it needs to carry out its research program and has incurred operations costs that are larger than were anticipated. The challenges arose partly because of a then-multinational management structure and partially because of the early choice of a queue-based observing mode.