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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee Board on Physics and Astronomy Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1991
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Z2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This project was supported by the Department of Energy under Grant No. DE-FG05-89ER40421, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation under Grant No. AST-8901685, the Naval Research Laboratory under Contract No. N00173-90-M-9744, and the Smithsonian Institution under Purchase Order No. SF0022430000. Additional support was provided by the Maurice Ewing Earth and Planetary Sciences Fund of the National Academy of Sciences created through a gift from the Palisades Geophysical Institute, Inc., and an anonymous donor. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data National Research Council (U.S.). Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee. The decade of discovery in astronomy and astrophysics / Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, National Research Council. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-309-04381-6 1. Astronomy—Research. 2. Astrophysics—Research. I. Title. QB61.N38 1991 520′.72—dc20 90-21659 CIP Cover: A view of the Milky Way Galaxy obtained by NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). The central parts of the Milky Way, the galaxy in which our sun and solar system are located, are normally obscured by intervening gas and dust. Observations in the near-infrared reveal a thin disk and a central bulge of stars at the center of the galaxy, located some 28,000 light-years away. Courtesy of the COBE Science Working Group and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Copyright © 1991 by the National Academy of Sciences No part of this book may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, or in the form of a phonographic recording, nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise copied for public or private use, without written permission from the publisher, except for the purposes of the official use of the U.S. government. Printed in the United States of America
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL 2101 CONSTITUTION AVENUE WASHINGTON, D. C. 20418 OFFICE OF THE CHAIRMAN This report on astronomy and astrophysics, The Decade of Discovery, is both timely and unique. During a period when the federal government recognizes the need for, and the difficulty of, fiscal restraint, the report sets clear priorities for funding. The report is unusual in the widespread sponsorship by governmental agencies seeking advice on the research they sponsor in this field and in the breadth of participation by the relevant professional community. The report describes a prioritized set of research initiatives that excite the intellect and stir a sense of adventure, ranging from understanding the large-scale distribution of matter in the universe to searching for planetary systems around nearby stars. In recent years, remarkable discoveries about the universe have attracted professional scientists trained in other fields to astrophysics and have stimulated many young people to study scientific or technical subjects. This study documents the amazing improvements in our ability to investigate the heavens made possible by recent advances in telescopes, detectors, and computers. At the same time, it makes clear the urgent need to maintain and improve the nation's infrastructure for research in astronomy. In the organizational stages of the committee's work, the survey's chair visited, together with the chair of the National Research Council or with an NRC staff representative, leaders of the sponsoring agencies, members of Congress and their staffs, and relevant individuals in the Office of Management and Budget. These visits helped astronomers direct their efforts to questions pertinent to governmental needs, while preserving the ability of the committee to make independent judgments based on scientific expertise. Parts of this report address questions raised in those early consultations, including chapters on the potential of astronomy from the moon; on education, science management, and international collaborations; and on the importance of astronomy to broad societal goals. The committee considered many more equipment initiatives than it could recommend with fiscal responsibility. Thus the committee prioritized initiatives on the basis of their scientific importance, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness. The widely inclusive nature of the committee 's deliberations ensures that this prioritization will have the support of the great majority of the nation's astronomers. The underlying strength of this report is the excitement of the recent discoveries that are surveyed and the clear path to even more extraordinary revelations that is set forth in the new initiatives. THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL IS THE PRINCIPAL OPERATING AGENCY OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES AND THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING TO SERVE GOVERNMENT AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS.
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS The arguments presented in favor of these initiatives include the universal appeal of astronomy to the curious of all ages, the stimulating educational effects of astronomical programs, the strong linkage with other physical sciences, and the remarkable but unforeseen applications of astronomical techniques to more practical endeavors. I would like to thank the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee and the panel members for the large investment of time and energy represented in this report. The fortunes of astronomy in any nation are symbolic of the treatment of all of basic science. John Bahcall understood this, and he has earned the gratitude of the scientific community as a whole and astronomers in particular for his inspired leadership and vision in developing an extraordinary consultative process and bringing this survey to a responsible conclusion. Frank Press Chair National Research Council
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS SURVEY COMMITTEE JOHN N. BAHCALL, Institute for Advanced Study, Chair CHARLES A. BEICHMAN, Institute for Advanced Study, Executive Secretary CLAUDE CANIZARES, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JAMES CRONIN, University of Chicago DAVID HEESCHEN, National Radio Astronomy Observatory JAMES HOUCK, Cornell University DONALD HUNTEN, University of Arizona CHRISTOPHER F. MCKEE, University of California, Berkeley ROBERT NOYES, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics JEREMIAH P. OSTRIKER, Princeton University Observatory WILLIAM PRESS, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics WALLACE L.W. SARGENT, California Institute of Technology BLAIR SAVAGE, University of Wisconsin ROBERT W. WILSON, AT&T Bell Laboratories SIDNEY WOLFF, National Optical Astronomy Observatories National Research Council Staff Robert L. Riemer, Senior Program Officer Susan M. Wyatt, Administrative Associate Board on Physics and Astronomy William Spindel, Principal Staff Officer (1989) Sandra Nolte, Administrative Assistant (1989-1990) Phoebe Wechsler, Administrative Assistant (1989-1990) Institute for Advanced Study
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY FRANK D. DRAKE, University of California, Santa Cruz, Chair LLOYD ARMSTRONG, Johns Hopkins University W. DAVID ARNETT, University of Arizona HOWARD C. BERG, Harvard University RICHARD S. BERRY, University of Chicago WILLIAM F. BRINKMAN, AT&T Bell Laboratories GEORGE W. CLARK, Massachusetts Institute of Technology HAROLD P. FURTH, Princeton University MARTHA P. HAYNES, Cornell University CHARLES F. KENNEL, University of California, Los Angeles WALTER KOHN, University of California, San Diego STEVEN E. KOONIN, California Institute of Technology LEON LEDERMAN, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory VERA RUBIN, Carnegie Institution of Washington DAVID N. SCHRAMM, University of Chicago DANIEL TSUI, Princeton University STEVEN WEINBERG, University of Texas Donald C. Shapero, Staff Director Robert L. Riemer, Associate Staff Director Ronald D. Taylor, Program Officer Susan M. Wyatt, Administrative Associate Mary Riendeau, Senior Secretary Anne K. Simmons, Secretary
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND APPLICATIONS* NORMAN HACKERMAN, Robert A. Welch Foundation, Chairman PETER J. BICKEL, University of California, Berkeley GEORGE F. CARRIER, Harvard University HERBERT D. DOAN, The Dow Chemical Company (retired) DEAN E. EASTMAN, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center MARYE ANNE FOX, University of Texas PHILLIP A. GRIFFITHS, Duke University NEAL F. LANE, Rice University ROBERT W. LUCKY, AT&T Bell Laboratories CHRISTOPHER F. MCKEE, University of California, Berkeley RICHARD S. NICHOLSON, American Association for the Advancement of Science JEREMIAH P. OSTRIKER, ALAN SCHRIESHEIM, Argonne National Laboratory ROY F. SCHWITTERS, Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory KENNETH G. WILSON, Ohio State University NORMAN METZGER, Executive Director * The project that is the subject of this report was initiated by the predecessor group of the Commis sion on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, which was the Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources, whose members are listed in Appendix D.
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was established by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS Preface The National Research Council commissioned the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee, a group of 15 astronomers and astrophysicists, to survey their field and to recommend new ground- and space-based programs for the coming decade. Support was provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the United States Navy, and the Smithsonian Institution. The survey committee's chair was appointed in February 1989 by the president of the National Academy of Sciences upon recommendation of a committee selected by the Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources. The chair sent a letter to all members of the astronomy section of the National Academy, to the chairs of all astronomy departments in the United States, and to other leading astronomers inviting nominations for individuals to serve on the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee. The committee members were selected by the Board on Physics and Astronomy and appointed by the National Research Council after extensive discussions by the chair with interested astronomers. The survey committee established 15 advisory panels to represent different wavelength subdisciplines, as well as solar, planetary, theoretical, and laboratory astrophysics. The chairs of the subdiscipline panels helped the committee to select a broad and representative group of experts, totaling more than 300 people. The panel chairs were responsible, together with their panel members, for obtaining the views of a wide cross-section of the astronomy and astrophysics community and for preparing a paper on their discussions and findings. A member of the survey committee served as a vice-chair of each panel.
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS Ten panels had charges that reflected specific scientific areas, eight of them based on wavelength region and two (those of the Planetary Astronomy Panel and Solar Astronomy Panel) on particular subdisciplines with special needs. The committee asked these ten science panels to identify the most important scientific goals in their respective areas, to prioritize the new initiatives needed to achieve these goals, to recommend proposals for technology development, to consider the possibilities for international collaboration, and to discuss any policy issues relevant to their charge. The Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee served as an interdisciplinary panel to guarantee that scientific questions that did not fit conveniently into this organizational structure were handled appropriately on an ad hoc basis. Four other panels were appointed to explore computing and data processing, policy opportunities, the benefits of astronomy to the nation, and the status of the profession. The working papers written on the first three topics were used by the committee as a basis for developing the chapters with corresponding subject matter (Chapter 5, Chapter 7, and Chapter 8, respectively) in the survey report. Data from the working paper titled “Status of the Profession” were used in preparing various chapters and Appendix B of the survey report and by other panels in preparing their papers. The Science Opportunities Panel, the fifteenth panel appointed by the committee, prepared a paper that the committee believed should be expanded and published separately as a popular book accessible to as large an audience as possible. An abbreviated and adapted version of this panel's paper appears as Chapter 2 of the survey report. The Lunar Working Group of the committee prepared a paper that appears as Chapter 6, “Astronomy from the Moon,” in this report. Members of the panels consulted widely with their colleagues to solicit advice and to inform other members of the astronomical community of the main issues facing the committee. Each panel held an open meeting at a session of the American Astronomical Society, and most of the panels held sessions at other professional gatherings, as well as at astronomical centers at different places in the United States. Each panel discussed with the relevant federal agency personnel the problems and issues of its particular area. These interactions with agency personnel provided valuable background to the discussions, although the panels were careful to preserve the independence and confidentiality of the National Research Council deliberative process. The panel chairs presented their papers in oral and written form at the June and July 1990 meetings of the survey committee and were invited to participate with the committee in the initial attempts to generate a cohesive set of overall recommendations. The views of the participants were modified by the discussions that took place between the different advocates and experts. The committee based its final decisions and recommendations in significant part on the contents of the panel papers and on the discussions with the panel chairs.
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS The unrefereed working papers of the subdiscipline panels give technical details about many of the programs discussed in this report. They are contained in the separately published Working Papers: Astronomy and Astrophysics Panel Reports (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991) issued by the National Research Council. These papers were advisory to the survey committee and represent the opinions of the members of each panel in the context of their individual charges. The committee is grateful to the many other astronomers, both in the United States and from abroad, who provided written advice or participated in organized discussions. In all, more than 15 percent of American astronomers played an active role in at least one aspect of this study. Appendix C lists the members of the subdiscipline panels. Many other people too numerous to cite individually assisted in various aspects of the survey. The committee gratefully acknowledges Rebecca Elson as technical editor, Susan Maurizi as general editor, and Margaret Best and Phoebe Wechsler for their invaluable efforts in preparing the seemingly infinite number of drafts of this report. R. Riemer provided guidance and support to the committee in his capacity as staff officer. C. Beichman served effectively in dual roles as Executive Secretary and as a member of the committee. Finally, the survey' s chair thanks Frank Press for generous doses of his wisdom and insight during the past two years. JOHN BAHCALL Chair Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 RECOMMENDATIONS 8 Introduction, 8 Our Place in the Universe, 8 Discoveries of the 1980s, 9 The 1990s: The Decade of Discovery, 10 Purpose and Scope of This Study, 10 Charge to the Committee, 10 Contents of This Report, 12 Recommendations for Strengthening Ground-based Infrastructure, 12 Achieving a Balanced Space Program, 14 Overall Strategy, 14 Significance of Large Space Observatories, 15 Recommended New Equipment Initiatives, 16 Ground and Space Initiatives, 16 The Combined Equipment List, 18 Small Projects and Technological Initiatives, 18 Explanation of New Equipment Initiatives, 19 2 SCIENCE OPPORTUNITIES 28 Introduction, 28 Our Solar System and the Search for Other Planets, 29 The Formation and Evolution of Our Solar System, 29 The Search for Other Planets, 31 Comets and the Origins of Life, 31 Weather and Volcanoes, 32 The Life History of Stars, 33 The Sun, 33 The Formation of Stars, 34 The Life and Death of Stars, 36 The Life History of Galaxies, 38
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS The Milky Way as a Galaxy, 38 The Evolution of Galaxies, 39 The Power Source of Quasars and Active Galaxies, 40 The Birth of Galaxies, 42 The Life History of the Universe, 44 The Big Bang Model, 44 The Large-Scale Structure of the Universe, 47 Dark Matter, 49 The Origin of the Universe, 51 The End of the Universe, 52 3 EXISTING PROGRAMS 55 Introduction, 55 Ground-based Astronomy, 55 Optical and Infrared Astronomy, 55 Radio Astronomy, 58 Planetary Astronomy, 61 Solar Astronomy, 61 The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, 62 Space Astronomy, 62 The Great Observatories, 63 The Explorer Program, 65 The Suborbital Program, 66 International Collaborations, 67 Shuttle Payloads, 67 Technology Development, 68 Theoretical and Laboratory Astrophysics, 68 Particle Astrophysics, 70 4 NEW INITIATIVES 72 Introduction, 72 The Decade of the Infrared, 75 High Spatial Resolution, 80 The Millimeter Array, 81 Adaptive Optics, 82 Optical and Infrared Interferometers, 83 Astrometric Interferometry Mission, 84 Large Earth-based Solar Telescope, 85 VLA Extension, 85 Construction of Large Telescopes, 86 A Southern 8-m Telescope, 86 Construction and Support of 4-m Telescopes, 88 The Information Explosion, 89 Other Initiatives, 89 Dedicated Spacecraft for FUSE, 89 Acceleration of the Explorer Program, 90 Fly's Eye Telescope, 90 5 ASTRONOMY AND THE COMPUTER REVOLUTION 91 Introduction, 91 A Hierarchy of Computing Power, 92 Data Acquisition and Processing, 92 Data Reduction and Analysis, 93 Archiving, 95 Computers and Theoretical Astrophysics, 97 Recommendations, 98 Archiving, 98 Workstations and Hierarchical Computing, 99 Networks, 99 Community Code Development, 99
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS 6 ASTRONOMY FROM THE MOON 100 Astronomy and the Space Exploration Initiative, 100 The Moon as an Observatory Site, 101 Physical Characteristics, 101 A Human Presence, 101 Science from a Lunar Observatory, 103 Observations with Single Telescopes, 103 Interferometry at Visible and Near-infrared Wavelengths, 103 Interferometry at Submillimeter Wavelengths, 105 Radio Observations, 105 High-Energy Astrophysics, 105 An Evolutionary Program of Technological and Scientific Development, 105 Specific Technology Initiatives, 106 The Impact of the Lunar Program, 107 Where Should the Program Be in 10 Years?, 107 Conclusions and Recommendations, 108 7 POLICY OPPORTUNITIES 110 Introduction, 110 The Previous Decade, 111 Educational Initiative, 113 Reviving Ground-based Astronomy, 115 Balanced Space Astrophysics Program, 116 International Cooperation, 119 8 ASTRONOMY AS A NATIONAL ASSET 121 Our Place in the Universe, 121 Astronomy and America's Scientific Leadership, 122 Public Scientific Literacy, 122 Training of Professional Scientists, 123 Synergism with Other Sciences, 124 High-Energy and Particle Physics, 124 Geophysics, 126 Astronomy and the Earth's Environment, 126 An Astronomical Context for the Earth's Environment, 126 Models of the Earth's Environment, 127 Astronomy, Weather, and Ozone Depletion, 127 Uses of Astronomical Techniques Outside Astronomy, 129 Medicine, 129 Industry, 130 Defense Technology, 130 Why They Call It Universal Time, 132 Energy, 133 Astronomy as an International Enterprise, 133 9 REFERENCES 135
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS APPENDICES A GLOSSARY 139 Astronomical Terms, 139 Abbreviations and Acronyms, 146 B STATUS OF THE PROFESSION 150 The Demographics of Astronomy, 150 The Growth of Astronomy, 150 Astronomy as a Profession, 152 The Funding of Astronomical Research, 153 Support from the National Science Foundation, 154 Support from NASA, 156 Access to Ground-based Telescopes, 156 Optical and Infrared Astronomy, 158 Radio Astronomy, 158 C CONTRIBUTING SCIENTISTS 161 D MEMBERS, COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND RESOURCES 171 INDEX 173
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THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS
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