The 80th Joseph Henry Lecture
May 20, 2011
2020 Vision: A Decadal View of New Worlds and New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Debra Elmegreen, Maria Mitchell Professor of Astronomy and Department Chair, Vassar College,
and President of the American Astronomical Society
Why does the universe accelerate? When did the first stars, galaxies, and black holes form? Are there Earth-like planets? The vision for astronomy and astrophysics research and the astronomical enterprise in the coming decade is presented in this review of the National Academies Astro2010 Decadal Survey Committee’s “New Worlds, New Horizons” report. The recommendations, two years in the making, represent a community consensus formed from the input of over a thousand astronomers. Driven by the most exciting and pressing astronomy questions today, the recommendations lay the groundwork for future observations, technologies, and theories. Top-ranked large projects Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), along with an enhanced Explorer program and mid-scale projects such as the Cornell Caltech Atacama Telescope (CCAT), are some of the compelling activities that will carry us forward on transformational adventures. The time domain window of discovery will be opened by rapid repeated sky scans. The fundamental physics of dark energy and dark matter will be probed by mapping billions of galaxies and by studying supernovae. Observations will reveal the growth of structure in the cosmic dawn, and will detail the evolution from protogalaxies to evolved galaxies, and from protoplanets to exoplanets.