Thursday, April 4, 2013

1304.1017 (Garth Illingworth)

What is an Observatory? The Crucial Role of Such Organizations for Maximizing the Science Return from Astronomy Research Facilities    [PDF]

Garth Illingworth
Observatories, Institutes and Centers that support major astronomical facilities have, for decades, played a key role in maximizing the scientific return from their facilities and telescopes. It is crucial to realize that an "observatory" is more than simply a telescope or ensemble of telescopes that provide observing opportunities for astronomers. Observatories are at the heart of an institutional capability to do things beyond what is possible for astronomers themselves to do as individuals. Observatories organize and mobilize a range of multidisciplinary skills for achieving a coherent and sustainable capability that is central to modern observational astrophysics. Yet many of the activities and roles carried out by the "observatory" organizations in fulfillment of their mission are not fully recognized by policymakers or senior managers, and often not fully understood even within the astronomy community. As we assess the future opportunities for new facilities in a challenging budget environment it is important to be cognizant of what observatories do and the roles they play. The University of California Observatories (UCO) have contributed in many key ways to the overall success of UC astronomy. UCO has played a central role in making the UC astronomy program one of the leading astronomy programs on the international stage. This white paper is intended to provide perspective on the roles played by an observatory, and in particular, the role played by UCO - and to identify some current challenges for UCO and UC astronomy.
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