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Working Papers: Astronomy and Astrophysics Panel Reports
small machines that have been the workhorses of nuclear astrophysics.
The last decade has also seen a significant increase in the use of large higher energy facilities in attacking astrophysical problems. The next ten years will certainly present new opportunities with the construction of the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider (RHIC) searching for the quark-gluon phase transition (crucial to our understanding of the big bang and potentially important in neutron stars as well), along with expanded use of present facilities.
Fundamental research in particle physics has recently spawned whole subfields in astrophysics. In particular, the physics of the early universe is closely coupled to particle physics. There has also been significant interplay between particle physics and astrophysics with respect to the properties and detection of neutrinos. We can expect that the 1990's will see a wealth of new information relevant to astrophysics as new accelerators come on line. Important data has already arrived from the e-e- colliders, SLC and LEP, and new data from these will continue during the 1990's. New data at even higher energies (and therefore back in time closer to the big bang) is expected in the coming decade from the new hadron colliders—SSC in the US and LHC at CERN.
In addition, small scale experiments probing the properties of elementary particles will certainly play an important role for astrophysics. Such research, by better defining the scope and limitations of the "Standard Model," will have immediate feedback to astrophysics and should be strongly supported. As in other fields, there is the concern that in advancing to the forefront of particle physics, some facilities/capabilities that are important in addressing astrophysical questions will be forced out of operation. One important example in this context is the future availability of medium and high energy neutrino beams, which can play an important role in probing neutrino interactions and searching for possible new phenomena such as neutrino oscillations.
III - FUNDING RECOMMENDATIONS
We begin with two overall funding recommendations, and then give specific recommendations for each agency, broken down into theory and laboratory astrophysics.
Commensurate support for theory. NSF should establish a separate theory program funded at a level commensurate with that of other federally funded basic research in the physical sciences, at about 15% of the University grants program. NASA's support for theory, already strong, should grow with the increase in the science portion of the astrophysics budget. DOE should support theoretical astrophysics at universities and DOE laboratories insofar as it is relevant to its mission.
Laboratory astrophysics initiative. NASA should establish a long-term program in laboratory astrophysics to support major missions such as the Great Observatories and CRAF-Cassini. NSF Astronomy should find new funds to establish a viable program in laboratory astrophysics, to be coordinated with the Physics and Chemistry Divisions. DOE should support laboratory astrophysics, particularly atomic and low energy nuclear, insofar as it is relevant to its core programs.
Recommendations by Agency: Theory
Let us first discuss the recommendation regarding theoretical funding. In particular, we noted from interviews with physics grants officers at NSF and DOE that physics programs tend to put 15% to 22% of the operations and university grant funds into physics theory, whereas at NSF astronomy, theory was at a level of about 9% of university grants or about 3% of the overall AST annual budget. Even when capital equipment costs are removed from the total budget and only operations and university grant funds are examined, the amount (about 5%) is obviously well below that allocated for theory in physics. Furthermore, this amount has fluctuated considerably over the years in fact as well as in the interpretation of what is defined as theory. A third case is NASA which has made dramatic strides in theory support following the field committee report. Now, out of all astrophysics at NASA, approximately 10% is theory (see Table 1 and Figure 1).