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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Astro2010: The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey

Survey Structure

Survey Overview

The survey will be carried out by the ASTRO2010 Survey Committee (ASC). An Executive Committee (G5) consists of the Chair, an Executive Officer, and three vice-Chairs. Its primary responsibility is the organization, communication and coordination of the different survey components. Three Subcommittees of the ASC, on Science, State of the Profession, and Programs, are each led by a vice-Chair and manage several activities. The Science Subcommittee will be responsible for five Science Frontiers Panels (SFP). The Programs Subcommittee will supervise four Program Prioritization Panels (PPP). The State of the Profession Subcommittee will oversee the work of six Infrastructure Study Groups (ISG). ASC Members have been assigned to one of the three Subcommittees and will oversee and take part in the work of the next tier of Panels and Study Groups.

The survey will take place over eighteen months and will comprise two overlapping phases. The first phase will be mostly concerned with establishing a science program, fact-finding, and establishing a procedure for the second phase. The second phase will be mostly concerned with creating a prioritized, balanced, and executable series of research activities—that is, ground- and space-based research programs, projects, telescopes, and missions—that will define the forefront of astronomy and astrophysics for the decade 2010-2020 while being of sufficient scope to be identified separately in the final report.

The Panels and Study Groups that fall under the Science (SFPs) and State of the Profession (SGs) Subcommittees will complete the first phase of the survey and report their findings to the Survey Committee. The Panels and Study Groups that fall under the Program Subcommitee (PPPs) will also receive interim output from the SFPs and SGs in drawing up their recommended programs. These, in turn, will be reported to the Survey Committee. The Survey Committee will then make the final survey recommendations, thus completing the second phase of the survey. It should be noted that the survey committee, panels and study groups will operate under the NRC procedures governing both public access to input to the panels and the confidentiality and all reports produced under NRC auspices will be subject to NRC review before becoming public.


Panels and Study Groups

Five Science Frontiers Panels (SFPs) will be established as NRC committees and be charged with recommending an integrated scientific observational and theoretical research program in their assigned research areas. The thematic areas for the Science Frontiers Panels will be:

 Planetary Systems and Star Formation (PSF). Solar system bodies (other than the Sun) and extrasolar planets, debris disks, exobiology, formation of individual stars, protostellar and protoplanetary disks, molecular clouds and the cold ISM, dust, and astrochemistry.

Stars and Stellar Evolution (SSE). The Sun as a star, stellar astrophysics, structure and evolution of single and multiple stars, compact objects, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and solar neutrinos. Extreme physics on stellar scales.

The Galactic Neighborhood (GAN). Structure and properties of nearby galaxies including the Milky Way and their stellar populations, interstellar media, star clusters. Evolution of stellar populations.

Galaxies across Cosmic Time (GCT). Formation and evolution of galaxies and galaxy clusters, active galactic nuclei and QSOs, mergers, star formation rate, gas accretion, global properties of galaxies and galaxy clusters, supermassive black holes.

Cosmology and Fundamental Physics (CFP). Early universe, microwave background, reionization and galaxy formation up to virialization of protogalaxies. Large scale structure, intergalactic medium, determination of cosmological parameters, dark matter, dark energy. High energy physics using astronomical messengers, tests of gravity, physical constants as determined astronomically.


The reports from the SFPs will call out up to four central questions that are ripe for answering and one general area where there is unusual discovery potential. The SFPs will write panel reports containing detailed science cases. While observational and theoretical capabilities for realizing the science should be addressed, Panel advocacy of specific new activities will be avoided. The panels will be required to outline their recommendations in time to serve as input to the PPPs.

Four Program Prioritization Panels (PPP) will be established as NRC committees and charged with recommending to the Survey Committee a prioritized, balanced, and integrated research program which includes a rank ordering of research activities and a balanced technology development program. The Program Prioritization Panels will be constituted as:

 Radio, Millimeter and Submillimeter from the Ground (RMS). Observatories and telescopes that observe primarily in these wavebands.

Optical and Infrared Astronomy from the Ground (OIR). Observatories and telescopes that observe primarily in these wavebands.

Electromagnetic Observations from Space (EOS). This will include all space-based astronomical projects observing the electromagnetic spectrum.

Particle Astrophysics and Gravitation (PAG). This will include all projects exploring areas at the interface of physics and astronomy such as gravitational radiation, TeV gamma-ray astronomy, and free-flying space missions testing fundamental gravitational physics.


The recommendations from the PPPs will be informed by the SFPs’ recommendations. The Survey Committee will consider the recommendations of the four PPPs as well as independent assessments of cost schedule and risk associated with individual projects in the assembly of the Astro2010 Survey’s prioritized, balanced, and executable series of research activities that will define the forefront of astronomy and astrophysics for the decade 2010-2020.

The Study Groups (SGs) will assist the Subcommittee on State of the Profession by gathering current information on infrastructure, broadly defined. Study groups will be established as follows:

 Computation, Simulation, and Data Handling (CDH). Summarize existing computational resources and support for acquisition, analysis, and archiving of astronomical data and document needs and schedules for acquiring this capability for future projects for which the data analysis challenges are anticipated to be large. Summarize resources and support available for astrophysical and cosmological simulation and match possible simulation goals to computing capacity. Identify major challenges and changes in computing environments and software and report on expected availability of affordable computing cap ability over the next decade.

Demographics (DEM). Estimate the numbers of astronomers and astrophysicists working in different environments and subfields. Consider diversity, geography and student populations. In academia, consider diversity among different academic ranks. Examine the individual grants programs in NASA, the NSF and DOE and break down resource allocation by field, discipline and cost category where possible. Collate oversubscription rates for programs. Examine publication rates by field and discipline.

Facilities, Funding and Programs (FFP). List major operational public and private facilities, their capabilities, ages, and proposal pressure. Assess agency budgets for all programs. Consider infrastructure issues such as support for laboratory astrophysics and technology development and theory.

International and Private Partnership (IPP). Summarize international, public and private partnerships for astronomical facilities and comment on lessons learned. Describe the scope and current status of relevant major projects in development. Summarize lessons learned to promote successful collaborations.

Education and Public Outreach (EPO). Review programs to communicate the results from astronomical research to all segments of society. Review the role of astronomy in K-12 and college education for both non-astronomers and astronomers. Describe ongoing initiatives in professional education for astronomers (including graduate students and postdocs), journalists and science policy experts.

Astronomy and Public Policy (APP). Describe the various benefits to the nation that accrue from federal investment in astronomy and the potential contributions that professional astronomers make to research of societal importance including those associated with energy, climate and computation. Describe the current structure of committees and reporting lines that are used to provide advice to the federal government.


The SGs will be a set of community activities, operating under terms of reference provided by the State of the Profession subcommittee. The SGs will prepare factual reports for submission to the State of the Profession Subcommittee with data and information presented mostly in tabular and graphical form.

While the Panels and Study Groups are operating, the Subcommittees will monitor and coordinate their work. On completion of the reports from the Panels and Study Groups, the Subcommittees will merge and synthesize those outputs into sections of a report to be adopted by the Survey Committee. That report will be subject to NRC review and only released after the review is complete. A volume of panel reports will also be subject to NRC review and will be released following the release of the Survey Committee report.

The Science and Program Subcommittees will act to insure that all scientific endeavors and/or research activities are given fair consideration by an appropriate panel.

Community Input – Calls for Information

The Astro2010 Survey Committee, through its Subcommittees, will be issuing a series of calls for information in the coming months. For more detailed information see the Request for Input page and the Community Input page for more information.

In addition, the Survey Committee has opened an e-mail address ( to which members of the astronomy and astrophysics community as well as other interested members of the public can send general comments, suggestions, or submit questions on process and procedures. Please note that all submissions to the committee, both to this email address and in response to the calls for information mentioned above, will be considered public documents. While the committee cannot respond in detail to emails sent to, all emails will be made available to the committee and used in the development and updating of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on this Web site.