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Summary of Science Frontiers Panels’ Findings

Five Science Frontiers Panels (SFPs) were appointed by the National Research Council as part of the first phase of the decadal survey on astronomy and astrophysics. The SFPs were charged to identify and articulate the scientific themes that will define the frontier in astronomy and astrophysics research in the 2010-2020 decade. Each panel was asked to prepare a report that would identify the scientific drivers of the field and the most promising opportunities for progress in research in the next decade, taking into consideration those areas where the technical means and the theoretical foundations are in place for major steps forward. More broadly, each panel was charged with the following tasks:

  • Identify new scientific opportunities and compelling scientific themes that have arisen from recent advances and accomplishments in astronomy and astrophysics;

  • Describe the scientific context of the importance of these opportunities, including connections to other parts of astronomy and astrophysics and, where appropriate, to the advancement of our broader scientific understanding;

  • Describe the key advances in observation and theory necessary to realize the scientific opportunities within the decade 2010-2020; and

  • Considering the relative compelling nature of the opportunities identified and the expected accessibility of the measurement regimes required, call out up to four central questions that are ripe for answering and one general area where there is unusual discovery potential and that define the scientific frontier of the next decade in the SFP’s subfield of astronomy and astrophysics.



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A Summary of Science Frontiers Panels’ Findings Five Science Frontiers Panels (SFPs) were appointed by the National Research Council as part of the first phase of the decadal survey on astronomy and astro- physics. The SFPs were charged to identify and articulate the scientific themes that will define the frontier in astronomy and astrophysics research in the 2010-2020 decade. Each panel was asked to prepare a report that would identify the scientific drivers of the field and the most promising opportunities for progress in research in the next decade, taking into consideration those areas where the technical means and the theoretical foundations are in place for major steps forward. More broadly, each panel was charged with the following tasks: • Identify new scientific opportunities and compelling scientific themes that have arisen from recent advances and accomplishments in astronomy and astrophysics; • Describe the scientific context of the importance of these opportunities, including connections to other parts of astronomy and astrophysics and, where appropriate, to the advancement of our broader scientific understanding; • Describe the key advances in observation and theory necessary to realize the scientific opportunities within the decade 2010-2020; and • Considering the relative compelling nature of the opportunities identified and the expected accessibility of the measurement regimes required, call out up to four central questions that are ripe for answering and one general area where there is unusual discovery potential and that define the scientific frontier of the next decade in the SFP’s subfield of astronomy and astrophysics. 

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new worlds, new HorIzons astronoMy astroPHysIcs  In and Each Science Frontiers Panel provided its inputs to the survey committee in the Spring of 2009 and completed its panel report thereafter. The SFP reports are provided in the second volume of the decadal survey, along with the reports of the Program Prioritization Panels.1 The five SFPs and their scientific scopes were as follows: • Panel on Cosmology and Fundamental Physics (CFP). The CFP scope en- compassed cosmology and fundamental physics, including the early universe, the microwave background, the reionization and galaxy formation up to virialization of protogalaxies, large-scale structure, the intergalactic medium, the determination of cosmological parameters, dark matter, dark energy, tests of gravity, astronomi- cally determined physical constants, and high-energy physics using astronomical messengers. • Panel on the Galactic Neighborhood (GAN). The GAN scope encompassed the galactic neighborhood, including the structure and properties of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and their stellar populations and evolution, as well as interstellar media and star clusters. • Panel on Galaxies Across Cosmic Time (GCT). The GCT scope encompassed galaxies across cosmic time, including the formation, evolution, and global prop- erties of galaxies and galaxy clusters, as well as active galactic nuclei and quasi- stellar objects, mergers, star-formation rate, gas accretion, and supermassive black holes. • Panel on Planetary Systems and Star Formation (PSF). The PSF scope encom- passed planetary systems and star formation, including solar system bodies (other than the Sun) and extrasolar planets, debris disks, exobiology, the formation of individual stars, protostellar and protoplanetary disks, molecular clouds and the cold interstellar medium, dust, and astrochemistry. • Panel on Stars and Stellar Evolution (SSE). The SSE scope encompassed stars and stellar evolution, including the Sun as a star, stellar astrophysics, the structure and evolution of single and multiple stars, compact objects, supernovae, gamma- ray bursts, solar neutrinos, and extreme physics on stellar scales. Table A.1 shows the final science questions and areas of discovery potential as described in the SFP reports. 1 National Research Council, Panel Reports—New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astro- physics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011.

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aPPendIx a  Table a.1 Summary of Science Frontiers Panels’ Findings area(s) of Unusual Panel Science Questions Discovery Potential Cosmology and CFP 1 How did the universe begin? Gravitational Wave Fundamental astronomy CFP 2 Why is the universe accelerating? Physics CFP 3 What is dark matter? CFP 4 What are the properties of neutrinos? Galactic GaN 1 What are the flows of matter and energy in the Time-Domain Neighborhood circumgalactic medium? astronomy astrometry GaN 2 What controls the mass-energy-chemical cycles within galaxies? GaN 3 What is the fossil record of galaxy assembly from the first stars to the present? GaN 4 What are the connections between dark and luminous matter? Galaxies across GCT 1 How do cosmic structures form and evolve? The epoch of Cosmic Time Reionization GCT 2 How do baryons cycle in and out of galaxies, and what do they do while they are there? GCT 3 How do black holes grow, radiate, and influence their surroundings? GCT 4 What were the first objects to light up the universe, and when did they do it? Planetary PSF 1 How do stars form? Identification and Systems Characterization of PSF 2 How do circumstellar disks evolve and form and Star Nearby Habitable planetary systems? Formation exoplanets PSF 3 How diverse are planetary systems? PSF 4 Do habitable worlds exist around other stars, and can we identify the telltale signs of life on an exoplanet? Stars and Stellar SSe 1 How do rotation and magnetic fields affect stars? Time-Domain evolution Surveys SSe 2 What are the progenitors of Type Ia supernovae and how do they explode? SSe 3 How do the lives of massive stars end? SSe 4 What controls the mass, radius, and spin of compact stellar remnants?

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