- O/IR System
The ensemble of ground-based optical-infrared (O/IR) observatories operated by US federal and non-federal organizations for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.
The System enables experimentation and exploration throughout the observable Universe.
NOAO operates some of the most scientifically productive facilities within the System, independent of aperture size. NOAO is also the community gateway to NSF-enabled open access nights on non-NOAO System facilities.
After significant preliminary discussion during the 1990s (e.g., 1995 McCray report, A Strategy for Ground Based Optical and Infrared Astronomy), the concept of a NSF-supported optical-infrared (O/IR) astronomy base program was first articulated by the 2001 Decadal Survey report and affirmed by the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences Senior Review Committee in 2006.
“U.S. ground-based optical and infrared facilities...should...be viewed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the astronomical community as a single integrated system drawing on both federal and nonfederal funding sources. Effective national organizations are essential to coordinate, and to ensure the success and efficiency of, these systems. Universities and independent observatories should work with the national organizations to ensure the success of these systems.”
—Astronomy and Astrophysics for the Millenium, Executive Summary (2001)
For a more complete origins overview, see NOAO and the O/IR System (Silva & Blum, 2009).
Since 2001, NOAO has lead or managed a variety of System development activities. Through these activities, NOAO seeks ways to help System facilities work together to address the overall needs of US astronomers while allowing independent groups to pursue their own programs.
An NRC panel is current preparing recommendations for optimizing the US O/IR System in the era of LSST.
NSF-sponsored community-access available via NOAO observing proposals
Community-access available via other access points
No current community access
Current NOAO System development activities
New System facilities under development
System technology development programs
System capability definition, community workshops (NOAO sponsored or hosted)
System capability definition, committees (NOAO sponsored or hosted)
Last updated or reviewed June 4, 2020.