Submitting Campus

Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

Document Type

White Paper

Publication/Presentation Date



Open-access telescopes of all apertures are needed to operate a competitive and efficient national science program. While larger facilities contribute light-gathering power and angular resolution, smaller ones dominate for field of view, time-resolution, and especially, total available observing time, thereby enabling our entire, diversely-expert community. Smaller aperture telescopes therefore play a critical and indispensable role in advancing science. Thus, the divestment of NSF support for modest-aperture (1 – 4 m) public telescopes poses a serious threat to U.S. scientific leadership, which is compounded by the unknown consequences of the shift from observations driven by individual investigators to survey-driven science. Given the much higher cost efficiency and dramatic science returns for investments in modest aperture telescopes, it is hard to justify funding only the most expensive facilities. We therefore urge the Astro2020 panel to explicitly make the case for modest aperture facilities, and to recommend enhancing this funding stream to support and grow this critical component of the OIR System. Further study is urgently needed to prioritize the numerous exciting potential capabilities of smaller facilities,and to establish sustainable, long-term planning for the System.