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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
The recommendation for ongoing U.S. involvement in TeV astronomy is based largely on the demonstrated recent accomplishments of this field and the prospect of building fairly quickly a much more capable facility to address a broad range of astronomy and physics questions over the next decade.
Recommendation for New Ground-Based Activities—Medium Project
Only one medium project is called out, because it is ranked most highly. Other projects in this category should be submitted to the Mid-Scale Innovations Program for competitive review.
Priority 1 (Medium, Ground). CCAT
CCAT (formerly the Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope) would be a 25-meter telescope operating in survey mode over wavelengths from 200 microns to 2 millimeters (Figure 7.11). CCAT is enabled by recent, dramatic advances in the ability to build millimeter-wave cameras with more than an order of magnitude more spatial elements than previously possible. This technical advance will enable a powerful submillimeter and millimeter telescope that can perform sensitive imaging surveys of large fields. ALMA, operating over the same band, is scheduled to begin full operations in 2014 and will produce high-resolution images and spectra of faint, and in some cases distant, sources. However, ALMA has a small field of view and is therefore inefficiently used to find the sources that it studies. CCAT will therefore be an essential complement to ALMA. It would excel as a sensitive survey facility, both for imaging and multiobject spectroscopy, with a field of view 200 times larger than that of ALMA. With a broad scientific agenda, CCAT will enable studies of the evolution of galaxies across cosmic time, the formation of clusters of galaxies, the formation of stars in the Milky Way, the formation and evolution of planets, and the nature of objects in the outer solar system.
The committee estimates a total development and construction cost of $140 million and an estimated start of operations in 2020.24 The technical risk was assessed as medium. It is recommended that NSF plan to fund $37 million of the construction cost. This funding amount, as well as a potential NSF contribution to operations at the requested level of $7.5 million, is contingent on an arrangement being negotiated that allows broad U.S. astronomical community access to survey products and competed observing time on a facility that should significantly enhance the U.S. scientific productivity of ALMA.
The total construction cost is estimated to be $110 million, and so with a third share for the federal government CCAT falls in the “medium” cost category.