In DepthAstronomy

U.S. observers seek a more perfect union

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Science  03 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6324, pp. 442-443
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6324.442

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The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is aiming to merge some functions of its three largest optical observatories within a new body called the National Center for Optical and Infrared Astronomy. The new center would provide services to the Gemini Observatory (with twin 8.1-meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile), the National Optical Astronomy Observatory with a handful of telescopes in Chile and the United States, and the still-rising Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, an 8.4-meter instrument in Chile. The fact that all three receive significant funding from NSF but each is governed by an entirely separate organization is emblematic of the fractured nature of U.S. astronomy. By pooling many functions, NSF hopes to make better use of available expertise and achieve economies of scale while preserving independent scientific operations.