What is NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory?

As of 1 October 2019, all National Science Foundation-funded ground-based nighttime optical and infrared astronomical research facilities operate together in one organization called NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NSF’s OIR Lab). The new organization operates five scientific facilities: Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO); the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC); Gemini Observatory; Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO); and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF.

NSF’s OIR Lab is the preeminent US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, enabling breakthrough discoveries in astrophysics by developing and operating state-of-the-art ground-based observatories and providing data products and services for a diverse and inclusive community.

NSF’s OIR Lab serves as a focal point for community development of innovative scientific programs, the exchange of ideas, and domestic and international collaborations. 

Why was NSF’s OIR Lab created?

NSF’s OIR Lab serves as a focal point for community development of innovative scientific programs, the exchange of ideas and creative development. The lab’s programs enable the astronomy community to advance our understanding of the Universe by exploring significant areas of astrophysics, including dark energy and dark matter, galaxies and quasars, the Milky Way, exoplanets, and small bodies in our own Solar System. 

With the Community Science and Data Center, the integrated astronomy lab facilities will be able to develop the necessary data analysis and observational follow-up capabilities for this exploration, coordinate high-spatial-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of selected sources, and organize data services for accessing, querying, and analyzing petascale datasets.

Where is NSF’s OIR Lab located?

NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, in the same building where offices for Kitt Peak Operations, LSST Operations in the US and the Community Science and Data Center are located. The building formerly housed NOAO. 

NSF’s OIR Lab’s observing facilities are located on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai’i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. The Chilean offices for Gemini South, LSST in Chile and Cerro Tololo are located in La Serena, Chile. Gemini North offices are in Hilo, Hawai’i.

See Contacts page for a complete list of the facilities.

Who is NSF’s OIR Lab’s Director?

NSF’s OIR Lab’s Director is Patrick McCarthy. See the Leadership page.

Which facilities are operated through NSF’s OIR Lab?

NSF’s OIR Lab operates five programs: Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Gemini Observatory, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) operations.

Who manages NSF’s OIR Lab?

NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Center is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

What will happen to the US-ELT program under the new NSF’s OIR Lab organization?

AURA’s portion of the design and development of the US-ELT Program, which is currently being managed by NOAO, will continue uninterrupted under NSF’s OIR Lab.