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Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s

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We live in a time of extraordinary discovery and progress in astronomy and astrophysics. The next decade will transform our understanding of the universe and humanity's place in it. Every decade the U.S. agencies that provide primary federal funding for astronomy and astrophysics request a survey to assess the status of, and opportunities for the Nation's efforts to forward our understanding of the cosmos. Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s identifies the most compelling science goals and presents an ambitious program of ground- and space-based activities for future investment in the next decade and beyond. The decadal survey identifies three important science themes for the next decade aimed at investigating Earth-like extrasolar planets, the most energetic processes in the universe, and the evolution of galaxies. The Astro2020 report also recommends critical near-term actions to support the foundations of the profession as well as the technologies and tools needed to carry out the science.


Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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Publication Info

615 pages |8.5 x 11
  • Prepublication: 978-0-309-46586-1
  • Paperback (forthcoming): 978-0-309-46734-6

Table of Contents

skim chapter
Front Matter i-xxvi
Summary 1-9
1 Pathways to Discovery: From Foundations to Frontiers 10-30
2 A New Cosmic Perspective 31-80
3 The Profession and Its Societal Impacts: Gateways to Science, Pathways to Diversity, Equity, and Sustainability 81-124
4 Optimizing the Science: Foundations 125-153
5 Evaluating and Balancing the Operational Portfolio 154-165
6 Technology Foundations and Small and Medium Scale Sustaining Programs 166-179
7 Realizing the Opportunities: Medium- and Large-Scale Programs 180-220
Appendixes 221-222
Appendix A: Statement of Task and Panel Descriptions 223-227
Appendix B: Report of the Panel on Compact Objects and Energetic Phenomena 228-246
Appendix C: Report of the Panel on Cosmology 247-263
Appendix D: Report of the Panel on Galaxies 264-283
Appendix E: Report of the Panel on Exoplanets, Astrobiology, and the Solar System 284-304
Appendix F: Report of the Panel on the Interstellar Medium and Star and Planet Formation 305-324
Appendix G: Report of the Panel on Stars, the Sun, and Stellar Populations 325-341
Appendix H: Report of the Panel on an Enabling Foundation for Research 342-366
Appendix I: Report of the Panel on Electromagnetic Observations from Space 1 367-391
Appendix J: Report of the Panel on Electromagnetic Observations from Space 2 392-414
Appendix K: Report of the Panel on Optical and Infrared Observations from the Ground 415-439
Appendix L: Report of the Panel on Particle Astrophysics and Gravitation 440-463
Appendix M: Report of the Panel on Radio, Millimeter, and Submillimeter Observations from the Ground 464-487
Appendix N: Report of the Panel on the State of the Profession and Societal Impacts 488-538
Appendix O: Independent Technical, Risk, and Cost Evaluation 539-544
Appendix P: Acronyms 545-554
Appendix Q: Committee and Panel Biographical Information 555-589



Public Briefing Video

During this webinar, the decadal survey co-chairs discuss the key recommendations from the report and take questions from the audience.


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