The 2020 Decadal Survey

Delayed by a year, the 2020 US Decadal Survey of Astronomy -full title Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s – is now out.

It’s a hefty document of more than 600 pages so I haven’t had time to do anything but skim it. The top priority for NASA for the next decade seems to be a 6-m class space telescope capable of imaging Earth-like worlds orbiting sun-like stars, something that can’t be done with much larger telescopes from the ground though the plan does involve bringing very large ground-based telescopes (the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile and the Thirty Metre Telescope in Hawaii) into service more quickly than currently scheduled. Any new space telescope won’t be built and launched on the timescale of course: it probably won’t fly until the 2040s by which time I’ll probably be retired,

I also noticed in the section on the Cosmic Microwave Background we have

Recommendation: The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy should jointly pursue the design and implementation of the next generation ground-based cosmic microwave background experiment (CMB-S4).The panel suggests that third-generation CMB experiments aligned with CMB-S4―specifically, the SPO (South Pole Observatory) and the “nominal” version of the SO (Simons Observatory)―be high priorities for federal support.

The clarifications in parentheses are my additions.

The shopping list is a lot longer than these items however. There is plenty of discussion in the media already. See, for example, here. I may comment further if time allows.

UPDATE: there is a very user-friendly interactive overview of the survey here.

This is of course an American survey but Astronomy is a truly international enterprise so astronomers all round the globe will be studying it and trying to work out its implications for their own research environment.

And of course there’s a box below for comments from you!

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