Summary of FY2002 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation


The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Astronomical Sciences (AST) Subactivity is $156.26 million, an increase of $7.62 million, or 5.1 percent, over the FY 2001 Current Plan of $148.64 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

2000 Actual
FY 2001
Current Plan
FY 2002
Amount Percent
Astronomical Sciences
Total, AST

Totals may not add due to rounding.

NSF is the lead federal agency for ground-based astronomy, providing about two-thirds of the federal support for this area of science, including almost all of the federal support for radio astronomy.

Astronomy Research and Instrumentation includes support for astronomical and astrophysical studies of the origins and characteristics of planets, the Sun, other stars, our galaxy, extragalactic objects such as clusters of galaxies and quasars, and the structure and origin of the Universe. The development of advanced technologies and instrumentation and university radio observatories are also supported. Support often includes funding for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows as well as for instrumentation and other research needs. Also supported within this program element is NSF's Electromagnetic Spectrum Management (ESM) program, which participates with other federal agencies in coordinating the use of the electromagnetic spectrum for research and other activities.

The FY 2002 budget request includes $54.71 million for research and instrumentation support in the Astronomical Sciences that will advance the scientific priorities of studies in cosmology and the origin of the universe and the formation of stars and planets. Other priorities include continued support for the development of adaptive optics systems for telescopes, the search for extra-solar planets, research on the origin, evolution, and structure of the Universe, including significant activities in the area of particle astrophysics. A number of these activities involve intra- and interagency partnerships. Grant size will be increased to allow researchers to capitalize on the investments made by the federal, state, and private sectors in major new observational facilities. Support will also be provided for research and development that may lead to important facility upgrades or new installations in the future. Through the ITR priority area, support will be provided for research and applications in databases, data mining, and high speed computation. The Science and Technology Center (STC) for Adaptive Optics will be funded within AST in FY 2002.

An exciting example of the research supported in the Astronomical Sciences is related to "cosmic shear", defined as slight distortions in the images of distant galaxies caused by large intervening structures of primarily dark matter. A group of astronomers led by J. A. Tyson from Lucent Technologies, G. Bernstein of the University of Michigan, and Ian Dell' Antonio of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories detected a statistical signal of cosmic shear for the first time using wide-field images with the NSF Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory 4-meter telescope, part of NOAO. This initial detection was based upon measurements of the images of about 50,000 galaxies and demonstrates the principles to be used in a much larger cosmic shear survey currently underway. These measurements will provide a powerful tool to determine fundamental cosmological parameters related to the distribution of mass in the universe, and will test the foundations of cosmology.

The Facilities budget line item includes support for three national facilities: the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Also included is the U.S. share of operations for the International Gemini Observatories, twin 8-meter telescopes located in the northern and southern hemispheres. These facilities together provide world-class observing capabilities throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio to infrared and optical regimes of the electromagnetic spectrum. Also included in the facilities budget line is continued maintenance of the established infrastructure for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), an international project being undertaken in partnership with the European, Chilean and Canadian communities. ALMA will be the world's most sensitive, high resolution millimeter wavelength telescope.

FY 2002 support for Facilities totals $101.55 million, and includes:

  • Support for Gemini Observatories at a level of $11.0 million. The northern Gemini telescope is now in regular science operations, and the southern telescope expects to begin science observations in mid-2001. The Gemini Observatory remains the highest priority among our optical and infrared facilities. Activities for Gemini in FY 2002 will include development of advanced instrumentation and expansion of the public information and outreach effort to better serve the citizens of all of the partner countries.

  • Following a one-time increment in FY 2001 that enabled major improvements in facilities infrastructure, NAIC will be supported at $9.40 million, the level specified in the National Science Board-approved cooperative agreement. This level of support will enable continued operation and maintenance of the renovated Arecibo telescope and the development of instrumentation to take advantage of its greater sensitivity.

  • Support for NOAO is at the level of $32.02 million. NOAO provides observational facilities to the U.S. astronomical community in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Support is provided for operations and maintenance of a suite of optical/infrared and solar telescopes, and for the operations of the U.S. Gemini Project Office. Activities in FY 2002 include continued design and planning for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), an instrument that will be of significant value to studies in atmospheric sciences and space weather in addition to astronomical research.

  • Following a one-time increment in FY 2001 that enabled major improvements in facilities infrastructure and attention to deferred maintenance, NRAO support will be decreased to the level of $40.13 million. This reduction of funds has been redirected in part to support ALMA. NRAO support will provide for operations, maintenance, and instrumentation for their unique telescopes, including the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the Very Large Array (VLA), and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). Activities in FY 2002 include making remaining enhancements in operations at the VLA and the Byrd Telescope.

  • Included are funds for maintenance of the established infrastructure for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), an international project being undertaken in Chile in partnership with the European and Canadian community. Additional activities in FY 2002 will include testing of antenna prototypes and the design and development of advanced, ultra-sensitive millimeter-wavelength receivers. The project leadership is also pursuing other significant international partnerships. ALMA will be the world's most sensitive, high resolution millimeter wavelength telescope. Funding within the Major Research Equipment Account for Phase I of this project was completed in FY 2001.

The proposal to fund ALMA within the Research and Related Activities account is tentative pending the review of facilities management issues and the development of a plan to enhance the Foundation's management of large facilities. It may be determined that it is more appropriate to fund ALMA from within the Major Research Equipment account.

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