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Division of Astronomical Sciences

National Optical Astronomy Observatory  (NOAO)

Name Email Phone Room
Vernon  L. Pankonin (703) 292-4902  1030 S  
Elizabeth  A. Pentecost (703) 292-4907  1030 S  



The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) is a national center for research in ground-based night-time optical and infrared (OIR) astronomy.   NOAO's purpose is to provide outstanding ground-based astronomical telescopes and instrumentation to the nation's OIR astronomers, to promote public understanding and support of science, and to advance all aspects of US ground based astronomical research.  NOAO staff members provide technical assistance to visiting scientists, conduct research of their own, and develop advanced instrumentation.  As a national facility, NOAO telescopes are open to all astronomers regardless of institutional or national affiliation.  Observing time on NOAO facilities is available on a competitive basis to qualified scientists after evaluation of research proposals on the basis of scientific merit, the capability of the instruments to do the work, and the availability of the telescope during the requested time.  NOAO also provides both formal and informal programs in education and public outreach for teachers, students, and the general public.

NOAO headquarters is located in Tucson, AZ.   Observing facilities are located in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) - The observing facilities of KPNO are on Kitt Peak, a 2,100-meter mountain 90 kilometers southwest of Tucson, AZ.  KPNO includes the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope, the 4-meter Mayall telescope, and a 2.1-meter reflector.  The WIYN telescope is owned and operated by a consortium of US universities and NOAO. A full complement of state-of-the-art spectroscopic and imaging instrumentation is available for use on these telescopes.  KPNO also hosts the facilities of consortia that operate 19 optical telescopes and two radio telescopes on the mountain.

Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory  (CTIO) -   CTIO provides observing facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.  CTIO has offices, laboratories, and living quarters in the coastal city of La Serena, Chile, 400 kilometers north of Santiago. The observing facilities are on Cerro Tololo, a 2,200-meter mountain on the western slopes of the Andes, 60 kilometers inland from La Serena and on Cerro Pachon, a 2,700-meter peak about 11 kilometers to the southeast.  CTIO operates the 4-meter Blanco telescope, which is a near twin to the 4-meter Mayall at Kitt Peak, and the 4.1-meter Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope.  The SOAR telescope is a partnership between US institutions, including NOAO, and Brazil. These telescopes are equipped with instruments similar to those at KPNO.  NOAO hosts several other telescopes on Cerro Tololo operated by U.S. universities or partnerships.

The Gemini Science Center (NGSC) at NOAO serves as the gateway to the International Gemini Observatory for the U.S. astronomical community and represents the U.S. scientific, technical, and instrumentation interests in the international community of the Gemini Observatory.

NOAO is funded by NSF and operated and managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA).

Display additional information

National Optical Astronomy Observatory

Management and Operation of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) (NSF 13-582)

Dear Colleague Letter - Recompetition of the Management of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NSF 13-057)