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PLASMA ASTROPHYSICS 127 ing to develop new theories of distant objects is sometimes deemed an unacceptable stretch of the NASA mission. The panel would welcome an expansion of funding for basic research at NASA. SUMMARY Plasma astrophysics is an exciting and important area of astrophysics that is relevant to a wide variety of astrophysical phenomena and draws on an equally wide variety of topics in plasma physics. Problems in plasma astrophysics could stimulate important basic research. Yet the potential of plasma astrophysics is underrealized. The field is small and lacks the critical mass to provide graduate training at most institutions, especially given the lack of a suitable textbook. The funding base is diffuse, and plasma astrophysics is not recognized as a branch of astrophysics at any federal funding agency. Both the educational and the funding aspects need to be addressed to bring plasma astrophysics into the mainstream. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Conclusions Plasma astrophysics deals with phenomena and problems that are important to virtually every branch of astronomy and astrophysics. Some of these problems touch on areas that are central to basic plasma physics and have indeed inspired research in basic plasma physics. Yet, plasma astrophysics is not recognized as a coherent discipline by any federal funding agency. Recommendation The panel recommends that interdisciplinary programs be established at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation with the goal of funding research in plasma astrophysics, whether through astronomy, solar-terrestrial research, physics, or computer sciences. The purpose of such programs would be to encourage research in plasma astrophysics, including research on basic processes that are relevant to many astrophysical systems.
PLASMA ASTROPHYSICS 128