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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 

E-mailed Community Individual Input

Community Input and Feedback

In addition to the community input solicited by means of general calls for white papers and requests for information, the survey committee and its panels will accept unsolicited community comments or suggestions to the committee, through its e-mail portal at

Note that on being made available to the committee and panels all public comments and inputs are posted on this page and made available to the public through the survey’s public access file.

Inputs Received


Disclaimer: The views and comments presented here are in no way a reflection of the views of the Board on Physics and Astronomy, the Space Studies Board, the National Research Council or The National Academies. The comments posted will not necessarily guide the study or be included in a report.

Leonard Berg, Received on August 12, 2009

To whom it may concern:

The attached document expresses my hope that we can find a way to bridge the growing gap between scientific interest and spacecraft engineering requirements.

Thank you for the opportunity to express concerns from the point of view of a community that has been the beneficiary of astronomical observations from decades past.


Leonard J. Berg
Associate Technical Fellow (Space Systems) The Boeing Company

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Josh Walawender, Received on May 21, 2009

It is commendable that the Astro2010 Decadal Survey is examining the "Demographics" of the field through the Demographics Study Group.  I would like to recommend though, that the survey consider this issue outside of that particular study group.  I feel it is important that the Survey Committee members consider the impact of their funding recommendations on the demographics of the field.

One key issue is to find the optimum balance between short term positions (i.e. postdocs) and between long term, permanent positions (support astronomers, tenure track faculty, etc.) which would be generated by the funding recommendations of the survey.  An imbalance in those populations may drive talent away from the field.  This is one factor which disproportionately drives women away from the field (see for example, section 4.1 in 'Training the Next Generation of Astronomers' by Williams et al.).  I would like to express my strong support the recommendations in the white papers 'Employment & Funding in Astronomy' by Seth, et al. and 'Training the Next Generation of Astronomers' by Williams et al.

The Seth et al. paper, in addition to other recommendations, suggests that we gather more data on the employment situation in our field.  I want to emphasize, however, that this need for more data should not be seen as an excuse for inaction.  It is imperative that the projects recommended by the Survey Committee are chosen not only because they will produce good science, but also because they will produce good scientists.

thank you,

Dr. Josh Walawender,
University of Hawaii,
Institute for Astronomy

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Jason Eastman, Received on April 4, 2009


I would like to offer the following suggestions for the next decade:

1. Create professional, general, standardized, modular software to control all telescopes and instruments and do standard data reduction tasks. A significant investment now will save millions down the road in development effort, lost telescope time, and personnel training, and will allow scientist to focus on addressing new problems rather than creating yet another solution to a problem that has been solved many times before, but not made public or not quite general enough. A standard telescope interface will make it easier to write a standard software pipeline. A standard software pipeline will make it easier to create and navigate a national data archive.

2. Define standard hardware choices and software implementation for drive motors, ccd controllers, etc to make the software standardization effort easier.

3. Create a repository for peer reviewed codes of all kinds. Provide an incentive scheme to encourage contributors (ie make codes directly citable), and provide direct support to developers of particularly useful codes to professionalize them and integrate them into the standard pipeline.

4. Create a publicly available, user submittable, national data archive. For low cost (almost free) implementation, a P2P network could be used. With a bigger budget, a massive, centralized server could be created to encourage more contributors, enforce quality standards, and not strain low bandwidth locations.

Thank you for your consideration of these ideas,
Jason Eastman
The Ohio State University

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AURA, received April 1, 2009


We are submitting on behalf of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) summary documents that incorporate an important cross-section of community views on the landscape and priorities for ground-based O/IR night-time and solar astronomy, UV/O astronomy from space. These documents are the product of working groups we have established in these areas which each have had extensive interactions with the broader community. In addition, AURA has sponsored a workshop on UV/O and IR from space held at the Space Telescope Science Institute, and a meeting of the solar community in conjunction with the Ft. Lauderdale AGU meeting.

We want to stress that the Decadal Survey should, above all, adopt a sense of advocacy for the interests of the astronomical community. The U.S. community will achieve its aspirations through leadership, both in national programs and through international collaborations. These must be adequately funded and supported over a long time period. This sense of advocacy should be emphasized in all of your deliberations and adopted by the funding agencies in executing this plan.

AURA Decadal Steering Committee – Ground-Based OIR Astronomy and the System

In the report Science and the Ground-based Optical/Infrared Telescope System [] the AURA Decadal Steering Committee has laid out an ambitious set of goals that would maximize the productivity of US ground-based OIR astronomy. These recommendations emphasize achieving the goals of the 2000 Decadal Survey and propose actions that would more fully implement them. Key recommendations include:

Support for NOAO’s leadership role in the in the US OIR System

The Committee encouraged the US OIR System concept, its continued growth and evolution, and NOAO’s leadership role in it. As the National Observatory, NOAO has the responsibility for a balanced, properly resourced, observatory system that includes both public and independent telescopes. Implicit in this and other community based assessments [] is that NOAO has emerged as an effective national organization.

Establishing a robust System of 1 to 6 m telescopes The Committee strongly endorsed the need to fund the present ReSTAR proposal which would enhance the scientific capabilities of the current system of small to intermediate size telescopes, and ensure that they will fully complement existing 6 to 10 meter ones as well as contribute to the scientific productivity of the next generation of telescopes such as the LSST and the GSMT. The ReSTAR proposal will also capitalize on the ability of a network of small telescopes to more fully explore the time domain.

Acquiring additional community time on existing 6 to 10 m telescopes . The Committee recommended that the approach must be balanced and include both additional time on independent telescopes through the Telescope System Instrumentation Program (TSIP), and also additional Gemini time. We emphasize that a successful implementation of the System can only come from capitalizing on both capabilities. A successful implementation of the recommendations contained in the report would result in up to 150 additional nights of 6 to 10 m telescope access per year. The Committee recognized the growing US community’s concern and interest in improving the instrumentation on Gemini and streamlining the observation preparation process. In addition, the report addressed the need to improve the U.S. community representation on the Gemini Board and Gemini Science Committee and the need for a clearer path for community input. We also call attention to AURA’s Decadal Steering Committee’s recognition of some of the benefits of international collaboration which, in the case of Gemini, were a major rationale in gaining NSF and Congressional support. As the Managing Organization for Gemini, AURA advocates changes that best meet the needs of the entire partnership. The report makes the point that some improvements advocated by the US community would also benefit other partners.

Acquiring a public share of U.S. Giant Segmented Mirror Telescopes.

The Committee reaffirmed the high priority of GSMT and recommends public partnering on one or two U.S. telescopes. A share of both telescopes would have the most benefit from a System standpoint. Clearly, the ability of the NSF to achieve this will be contingent on the budget available, but no option should be closed off at this time. Structuring these partnerships could be done within the construction phase, but more likely as an operations commitment. AURA has also proposed the establishment of a TSIP-like program in which the Government funds the development of instruments for the GSMTs in exchange for access. [This approach is characterized in the State of the Profession paper by Elias entitled GSMT: The Case for Community Access to an Extremely Large Telescope and a notice of intent submitted by Smith, Silva, Elias and Blum entitled Options for Federal Support of a Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope Including a Dedicated Instrumentation Support Program] The Committee considered one area of technology in detail, adaptive optics (AO). AO is essential to the success of future ELTs and can greatly enhance the scientific capabilities of telescopes of all sizes. Thus the need to establish a robust national AO program extends beyond what the present ELT projects envision. We particularly point out the growing disparity between US investment in AO and that of ESO – ESO investment in AO, both R&D and enabling facility instruments is nearing three to four times that of the total investment in AO in the US, public and private. The committee urged a significant investment in AO by the NSF at least at the level recommended in the recent AO Roadmap Report. Finally, we point out that, as was the case in the 2000 Decadal Survey, it is important to establish the US national strategy within the global context. The ESO EELT has made rapid progress during its design phase and appears likely to secure significant funding. This makes it especially important to define a coherent US program that preserves all possible options.

Initiating the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope program Survey telescopes such as Pan-STARRS and LSST, a public-private partnership which includes AURA, promise a robust exploitation of the time domain and will address a variety of scientific problems that have grown in importance since the 2000 Decadal Survey. In addition, a strong case can be made for the complementarity of LSST with other major facilities including ALMA, JWST, and GSMT. LSST has evolved to a high state of project maturity within the NSF and DOE and is ready for the construction phase. Given the increased scientific role now seen for LSST compared to its original ranking, and its present state of maturity, AURA recommends that the project proceed at the earliest possible time.

AURA Decadal Steering Committee and AURA Workshop on UV/OIR Astronomy from Space

AURA’s Decadal Steering Committee and AURA’s workshop on UV/OIR from space identified key science goals for future space missions and general characteristics that these missions must have that are driven by the science goals. [ and] We do not prioritize or select among the many individual missions with almost as many diverse goals.

Most presentations emphasized new UV/O missions with possible extension to the non-thermal IR. This preference was jointly based on the performance expectations of JWST for the IR, as well as concern about the potential gap that will exist in our ability to make ultraviolet and optical observations from space. This gap will be between the end of HST’s mission, 5 to 10 years after SM4, and the time when major new missions could be approved and built. There was also concern expressed about finding the proper balance between "flagship" missions and smaller missions that can be carried out on shorter time scales with lower cost.

Science Goals: The discovery and characterization of exo-planets and search for bio-signatures received considerable emphasis. [An important aspect of this is understanding the range of solar variability under which life has survived on Earth.] At the other extreme of space and time, a second key goal that emerged was the mapping of the cosmic web and intervening galaxy halos over as wide a range of red-shifts as possible. A third key science goal is to study the formation and evolution of galaxies and their stellar populations.

Science Drivers : The two most important science drivers are significant gains in spatial resolution and sensitivity over what is now available. These suggest a telescope with at least three times the aperture of HST for work in the UV/O. These characteristics need to be accompanied by fields of view of about one arc-minute, spectral resolutions on the order of 104, photometric stability, high temporal resolution, high dynamic range, and solar blind capability.

In order to address these future missions, especially ambitious flagship missions, the role of institutions such as the Space Telescope Science Institute are paramount. There is ample evidence that such major missions and their respective institutions have played a powerful role in supporting the health of the general astronomical community.

Future of Ground Based Solar Physics: A Report of the AURA Solar Decadal Committee

In the report Future of Ground-based Solar Physics [] the AURA Solar Decadal Committee identified three major science drivers for the next Decade: the origin and emergence of solar magnetic fields; understanding the solar chromosphere; and observations of the coronal magnetic field. All of these are linked to the need to provide direct observational tests of solar magnetohydrodynamics and reach an understanding of the role of coronal magnetism.

Planned facilities such as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) are key to making progress on these three science drivers and to the future of solar astronomy in the US. AURA has recommended that ATST has reached a sufficient state of design maturity that construction should be started in the FY10 budget cycle.

The Committee also stressed the need for maintaining and expanding complementary full sun and synoptic observations that have been carried out by the National Solar Observatory and the High Altitude Observatory. Finally the Committee addressed infrastructure requirements that must underlie this strategy. Among these are investments in new instrumentation, theory, and capitalizing on the synergies between ground and space-based observations.

We draw attention to the Committee’s discussion of the structural problems that affect the conduct of solar astronomy and the ultimate success of the Decadal Survey. That is, in addition to the division of responsibilities between the NSF and NASA, the separation of responsibilities within the NSF leads to difficulties in achieving a well-integrated set of priorities. Indeed, the Astro2010 Decadal Survey itself is structured to address only a part of the overall multi-disciplinary field. [The NASA and NSF/ATM portion will be addressed in a separate Space Physics Decadal Survey.]

As a result of the last Decadal Survey, AURA has worked to establish the National Solar Observatory as a stand-alone organization capable of taking on a major community leadership role. It is important to capitalize on this and identify the best overall organization both within and outside the Federal Government for the conduct of solar astronomy and solar physics. The need to maintain the important connections to the astrophysical, geospace, and space weather communities should be paramount. Any reorganization of management roles should be science driven and should be guided by a community-based process.

We would be happy to discuss these issues with the Astro2010 Panel in more depth. The respective chairs of the committees we have asked to develop these recommendations and the Directors of our observatories, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the Gemini Observatory can provide additional insights that would be of value to your deliberations.


Bruce Carney,Chair
AURA Board of Directors

William S. Smith, President
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

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Bruce Elmegreen, Received March 31, 2009


To the Decadal Survey Committee,

I have often heard from graduate students and postdocs that they do not have enough information to evaluate whether a career in industry would be right for them. By this I mean a career doing non-astronomy work in an industrial setting after completing a Masters or PhD degree in astronomy.

I think astronomy degrees develop a wide range of skills that are useful in industry, including computer use, problem solving, statistical analyses, teamwork, and so on. Yet in physics and astronomy, there is seldom a strong connection between industrial partners and faculty members that can be called upon for job placement of recent graduates by their advisors. There is also little experience or knowledge in the student community about what an industrial job might be like. At the same time, there are typically more graduate students in the pipeline than can be placed in faculty positions, with a stressful time waiting those who try for these positions.

I suggest starting an NSF program in their higher education branch which offers a competitive grant  to a PhD student or postdoc that will contribute half of the industrial salary plus overhead to summer employment, 2 or 3 months, at an American industry. The other half salary would be paid by the industry that hires him or her. The student could apply for the grant with no particular industrial job in mind, although perhaps a range of possible jobs might be mentioned. The application would be due in the Fall of a year, and the grant awarded in the early Spring. At this time, the student would apply to any suitable industry, offering to do any kind of work under the NSF Summer Industrial Intern Program. The industry would evaluate the applicants according to their own standards.

The advantages of connecting students with industry in this way are:

1. Industrial research typically does not hire a person who is not ready to start on day 1 with the task at hand. They do not want to educate people or bring them up to speed for a long period of time. Thus summer interns are particularly difficult to hire. Many industries have summer intern programs, but they hire engineers and specialized people who have the specific skills that the industry wants. Summer interns are viewed as a recruitment tool, not an educational responsibility. Matching the industry salary and providing overhead costs for industry employment would offset the perceived expense of on-the-job training.

2. A grant program puts the initiative on the student or postdoc for raising his/her summer salary (half) and finding an industrial summer job. But with a grant in hand, the job should be easier to get.

3. The few students who do this will tell the others what industrial research jobs are like. They are challenging, interesting, goal-oriented, multifaceted, well-managed, and high paying.

4. Personal connections will be made between industrial and academic research areas, which could be useful for the student's advisor, and useful again if the intern ends up with a faculty position and becomes someone else's advisor.

5. There are many more summer intern positions in industry now than there are summer positions for astronomers. If this industrial interest can be channelled toward astronomers wondering about careers in industry, then there would be many more options for the astronomers for summer employment.

What is the cost?

I estimate that perhaps 100 industries would be interested in participating (20% of the Fortune 500 industries, including banks, telecommunications, software, medical research, petroleum, aerospace, etc.). Each might offer 1 or 2 jobs of this type. That means, say 150 jobs. Industry pays a young person something like $60,000/year, which for 2 months is $10000. Add overhead (insurance, health, space) to make it $17000 per person. Industry pays half of the salary, so the NSF share is $12000 per person. Times 150 people is $1.8 Million in NSF grants. That is a very small amount to open a new channel of employment for physics and astronomy PhDs, and to bring bright people into satisfying industrial jobs.


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John O'Meara, Received on March 27, 2009

The AAS has a small number of public policy fellows who are involved at various levels in lobbying efforts on the Hill.  One possible way of increasing our outreach efforts would be to create a similar number of astronomy outreach fellows.  These fellows would be drawn from various stages in their career post Ph. D.,, and could offer a new career path for those recent graduates who may not want to continue in the research field, but who wish to remain active in astronomy.   These fellows could be involved in the preparation of K-12 course materials, websites, and could be an important interface with the press and other media.

I thank the committee for their serious efforts today to receive input from the community.
John O'Meara

John M. O'Meara
Department of Chemistry and Physics
Saint Michael's College

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Dimi Chakalov, Received on March 3, 2009


Regarding Astro2010 Decadal Survey: there is a White Paper
(arXiv:0903.0100v1 [gr-qc]) submitted to the 2010 Astronomy Decadal Review process, which supports the ESA-NASA gravitational-wave observatory LISA.

One of the authors, B. Schutz, claimed elsewhere that "if LISA does not see its verification binary sources, that will be fatal for general relativity" (Sathyaprakash and Schutz, arXiv:0903.0338v1 [gr-qc], p. 108).

I'm afraid the authors of the White Paper have ignored my specific objections at

In .PDF format at

Conclusions on p. 13 from ExplanatoryNote.pdf.

Please make up your mind before endorsing "GW astronomy".

Kindest regards,
Dimi Chakalov

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Stephen Unwin, Received January 20, 2009


This question may be suitable for the Astro2010 FAQs.

Question:   Will there be a Technology panel, in addition to the other 4
Programmatic Prioritization panels?   And if so, how will it conduct business?


I heard at the AAS in Long Beach (perhaps from Roger Blandford?) that the
Astro2010 committee was considering adding a panel to the PPPs, specifically to
tackle questions regarding the strategic approach to technology.  (I'm thinking
space missions, but it applies to ground instruments also, to a lesser extent).

Judging from the listed NOIs, many of the submissions are either for technology
efforts, or for missions that are dependent on 'enabling' breakthroughs in
future technology.

The issues in mapping out a technology program are somewhat different from those
in a line of missions.   Technologies may require a long lead-time investment,
may span more than one mission, and may even not be assignable to a specific
mission until they reach a critical maturity level.

It is this last point that, I believe, requires a different approach from that
of a mission line, which should be fundamentally science-question driven.

Finally, the technology issue bears on the decision by NASA several years ago
not to fund a technology line, but to assign needed technologies to the relevant
mission lines.  While this change was well motivated, it has had the effect of
placing great uncertainty into the efforts of both technologists tasked with
advancing the state of the art, and in the efforts of scientists who advocate
for missions based on those enabling technologies.

Hope this clarifies the intent of the question.

Thanks very much,


Dr. Stephen C. Unwin
Exoplanet Exploration Program Deputy Scientist
Space Interferometry Mission Deputy Project Scientist
Office: 818-354-5066                   
Cell : 818-667-2972                   
Fax: 818-393-5239                   
stephen.unwin at  

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mail Stop 301-486
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109, USA

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Waddell Robey, Received on January 16, 2009


In reviewing the scope of the decadal study I did not see a direct reference to a review of the research programs that are directly concerned with the search for and analysis of extra-solar bodies (exoplanets). In this regard, the planned Kepler mission and its expected success mandates an early start up of a follow-on project that will analyze those exoplanets that appear to be Earth-like and possibly have the potential to host life or are in fact supporting life forms now. The earlier planned Terrestrial Planet Finder project, though now discontinued, remains a sound foundation for a Kepler follow-on study.

In this regard, Dr. Sara Seager, a member of the SSB Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life is involved in a concept study for such a follow-on project. With this in mind, I would hope that this committee would consider Dr. Seager as a key invitee for one or more of its meetings where they would entertain the research requirements and objectives for studies of Kepler identified Earth-like planets.

Waddell Robey
Managing Director
Riverside Spacewire Associates

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Murray Dryer, Received on January 15, 2009


Dear Sirs/Madams,
    I suggest inclusion of the technology development area, Space Weather, in your study.  This area is bringing the basic sciences of solar physics, via plasma physics, and heliospheric/magnetospheric/planetary physics to bear on societally-relevant topics.  The latter topics include technological and human radiological applications such as satellite component failures, GPS dropouts, electrical power disruptions, polar airline flight communication disruptions, and astronaut radiation hazards during terrestrial and future interplanetary missions.
   Many of the participants in this "research-to-operations", or R2O, endeavor are, I believe, members of AAS, APS, and/or AGU.  Thus, I believe that they would be interested in knowing that this area were to be included in this Decadal Study.  In fact, a meeting, sponsored by NSF/NCAR, NOAA, NASA and USAF on this concept, was recently held in Phoenix in conjunction with the AMS' annual meeting.  This meeting was directed to a community discussion of a testbed for model prediction efforts.  A similar, earlier decade-old DoD-sponsored effort along this line, University Participation in Operational Operations (UPOS), has hopefully provided useful "do's" and "don'ts" experience for this new effort...the point being the efficient application of taxpayer funds toward this national objective.
   Thank you for consideration of this suggestion.
Murray Dryer, Ph.D.
Member AAS
Space Weather Prediction Center (retired)
National Weather Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Boulder, CO

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Jeffrey Linsky, Received on January 14, 2009



A Comment to the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey Committee
               concerning NASA Missions of Opportunity

     During the last decade and possibly earlier, NASA has solicited and
supported Missions of Opportunity as a path for the construction of
scientific instruments to be placed on foreign or other agency spacecraft.
These instruments have been selected by peer reviews in competition with
other proposals generally as part of Explorer class opportunities. The
most recent opportunity was under the SALMON (Stand-Alone Mission of
Opportunity Notice) in September 2008, but this notice unlike many previous
notices did not include astrophysics instruments.

     I asked Paul Hertz, the Chief Scientist of the NASA Science Missions
Directorate to send me a list of recent missions of opportunity selections,
and he responded with a list of 13 that were selected from AOs during the
last 10 years. (P = planetary science, H = heliophysics, A = astrophysics)

Netlander      P/Discovery   cancelled - partner cancelled mission
ASPERA-3       P/Discovery   launched on Mars Express
EPOXI          P&A/Discovery use of Deep Impact for new science
Stardust-NEXT  P/Discovery   use of Stardust for new science
M3             P/Discovery   launched on Chandrayan-1

TWINS          H/Explorer    launched on unspecified spacecraft
CINDI          H/Explorer    launched on C/NOFS
XRS            A/Explorer    launched on Suzaku
SXS            A/Explorer    contribution to NEXT
EUSO           A/Explorer    cancelled - partner cancelled mission

BARREL         H/Geospace    suborbital mission
SPEAR          A/Explorer    contribution to Korean mission, not
ANITA          A/Explorer    suborbital mission, not downselected

In his email he said that "in Astrophysics, six have been selected for
Phase A (EPOXI, XRS, SXS, EUSO, SPEAR, ANITA) of which one launched (XRS),
one has been executed (exoplanet part of EPOXI), one is in development (SXS),
one wascancelled by partner after NASA downselected (EUSO), and two were not
downselected (SPEAR, ANITA).

Note that, unless something changes, SALMON will be where Explorer MOs
are competed the next time there is an Explorer AO. There are no
astrophysics opportunities in SALMON-2008 because we competed the
Explorer MOs in the SMEX AO."

     I believe that the missions of opportunity concept is vitally important
for astrophysics because:

   (1) It provides for additional opportunities for US investigators to
build scientific instruments and pursue scientific investigations on
satellites that NASA will not be building itself.

   (2) The presence of US instruments on foreign and other agency spacecraft
usually provide the opportunity for US investigators to propose observations
using all of the instruments on the spacecraft.

   (3) The proposals for mission of opportunity instruments are modest in
cost, are competitively peer reviewed, and, if selected, for flight generally
include NASA support for scientific investigations by US astronomers.

     While I think that NASA intends to continue Mission of Opportunity
solicitations, I urge that the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey
Committee explicity endorse the program and state its advantages for

      Jeffrey Linsky
      University of Colorado

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Howard D. Greyber, received on January 1, 2009


In response briefly, for input to the astro2010 decadal survey, let me urge

1. A white paper on the importance of "Strong" Magnetic Fields, together with Gravity, on researching the dynamics, morphology, energetics, etc. of galaxies, jets, grb and quasars - - also understanding the "Central Engine" of active galaxies and quasars. My paper, Astro-ph0509223 derives the fundamental physics, of what has long been assumed, that somehow there was some kind of an origin of a primordial magnetic field in the big bang model of the origin of the universe.
Gerard DeVaucouleurs (UTexas) for decades emphasized that his observations gave strong evidence for SUPERCLUSTERS. My paper Astro-ph0509222 discusses one version of the geometry for our huge local Supercluster (deduced from 0509223), - - and the surprising result that it explains the puzzling famous 1998 observations by two international groups of observers of studying supernovae Ia.
It yields the unusual physics that explains the remarkable conclusion that our universe transitioned at about 9Billion years in age and is presently accelerating its expansion. Einstein's added Lambda G.R. term is assumed correct.

2. A project to extend the Sloan Survey for the purpose of finding good observational evidence for the existence of our huge local Supercluster of galaxy clusters is urged.
I would particpate.

My Astro-ph0509222 "On the Electrodynamics of Cosmic Repulsion" follows Einstein's remark in 1918 that his added term represents what he calls, "the energy of empty space". My 0509223 "white paper" derivation, with a spinodal decomposition instability and then uses plasma physics plus gravity, leads to a Supercluster topology having all matter, visible and dark, on the surface of an ellipsoid surrounding a huge growing volume of extremely high vacuum (EHV). This volume is zero starting at COMBINATION TIME, (roughly a big bang age of 400,000 years). BUT the positive gravitational pull of all the surface Supercluster matter on particles in the central region for about 14Billion years causes this part of the Void vacuum to grow dramatically. When the Void central region has an extremely low particle density, the negative pressure of the "Dark Energy" of empty space will dominate. Today "Dark Energy" appears to represent ~70% of the total matter-energy of our universe.

The energy density of the EHV is always positive but close to zero, so the pressure is always negative, representing of course a repulsive gravity, which, about 5Billion years ago, surpassed the slowly decreasing effect of attractive gravity. Thus now our universe is accelerating its expansion velocity, as observed by two 1998 international groups studying Ia supernovae. (Let us recall that long ago in PNAS in 1954, George Gamow suspected that there must be some kind of instability at COMBINATION TIME.). My unique SMF model topology for the shape of the Supercluster is novel, but not, so far, unreasonable compared to the astronomical surveys, according to both John Huchra and Richard Kron.

Howard D. Greyber, Ph.D. Physics (formally retired)

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Richard Mushotzky, received on December 18, 2008


Folks, I do not think that the science panel selections are fully appropriate. In particular having a panel devoted to study of The Galactic Neighborhood has a rather narrow focus and a strong overlap with the study of Stars and Stellar Evolution. It also gives the panel on Galaxies across Cosmic Time an incredible amount of material to digest. Perhaps it would be best to still have 5 panels but somehow to have two on the subject of Galaxies across Cosmic Time and somehow divide the science in a sensible fashion. One suggestion is to have galaxies and galaxy evolution in one panel and groups, clusters and AGN in the other panel.

The other problem with the present organization is that there are no proposed missions whose science focus is on the Galactic Neighborhood other than Gaia. While the very large ground based telescopes will clearly do work in this area it is just one of many areas. Neither SKA, LISA, SIM, IXO or the LSST are focused on this area of research (Of course LSST,IXO, Lisa and SIM do have science overlaps; e.g. the study of compact galactic objects, SNR and astrometry of the Milkyway are parts of their science cases).

Richard Mushotzky

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