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Project Information

Project Information

Astro2020: Panel on Optical and Infrared Observations from the Ground

Project Scope:

Panel Description:
The Panel on Optical and Infrared Observations from the Ground (OIR) will identify and suggest to the decadal survey committee a prioritized program of federal investment in research activities that involve observations of astrophysical phenomena primarily by means of optical and infrared measurements from the ground. The OIR panel will also consider technology development needs to support the prioritized program. In formulating its conclusions, the OIR panel will draw on several sources of information: (1) the science forefronts identified by the Astro2020 science panels, (2) input from the proponents of research activities, and (3) independent cost, risk, and technical readiness evaluations. The OIR panel's suggestions will be integrated into a program for all of astronomy and astrophysics by the Astro2020 Committee.

Overall Project Statement of Task:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine shall convene an ad hoc survey committee and supporting study panels to carry out a decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics. The study will generate consensus recommendations to implement a comprehensive strategy and vision for a decade of transformative science at the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics. The committee, with inputs from study panels covering the breadth of astronomy and astrophysics, will carry out the following tasks:

  1. Provide an overview of the current state of astronomy and astrophysics science, and technology research in support of that science, with connections to other scientific areas where appropriate;
  2. Identify the most compelling science challenges and frontiers in astronomy and astrophysics, which shall motivate the committee’s strategy for the future;
  3. Develop a comprehensive research strategy to advance the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics for the period 2022-2032 that will include identifying, recommending, and ranking the highest priority research activities — taking into account for each activity the scientific case, international and private landscape, timing, cost category and cost risk, as well as technical readiness, technical risk, and opportunities for partnerships.  The strategy should be balanced, by considering large, medium, and small activities for both ground and space. (Activities include any project, telescope, facility, experiment, mission, or research program of sufficient scope to be identified separately in the final report.) For each recommended activity the committee will lay out the principal science objectives and activity capabilities, including assumed or recommended activity lifetime, where possible;
  4. Utilize and recommend decision rules, where appropriate, for the comprehensive research strategy that can accommodate significant but reasonable deviations in the projected budget or changes in urgency precipitated by new discoveries or unanticipated competitive activities;
  5.  Assess the state of the profession, using information available externally and, if necessary, data gathered by the study itself, including workforce and demographic issues in the field. Identify areas of concern and importance to the community raised by this assessment in service of the future vitality and capability of the astronomy and astrophysics work force. Where possible, provide specific, actionable and practical recommendations to the agencies and community to address these areas. This report shall be made available following the completion of the study.


Status: Current


Project Duration (months): 24 month(s)

RSO: Svedberg, Erik


Engineering and Technology
Math, Chemistry, and Physics
Space and Aeronautics
Policy for Science and Technology

Geographic Focus:

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 10/11/2019

Timothy M. Heckman - (Chair)
TIMOTHY M. HECKMAN (NAS) is the inaugural Dr. A. Hermann Pfund professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. He is also the director of the Center for Astrophysical Sciences, where he is responsible for promoting and supporting research in astrophysics, nurturing large-scale projects and providing them with an organizational structure, providing a forum and a focus for strategic planning, fostering cooperation between the different elements of the local astrophysics and space science communities, and providing a structured career path for the non-tenure-track research staff. Heckman’s research interests include galaxy evolution, starbursts, black holes, and active galactic nuclei. He is a member of the GALEX Science Team, a builder of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), chair of the Pan-STARRS1 Science Consortium Board, vice chair of the Board of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, and former chair of the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) Board of Governors, during which time ARC established the SDSS. Heckman received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington. He has served on numerous National Academies committees including as a member of the Board on Physics and Astronomy, the U.S. National Committee for the International Astronomical Union, the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, and on the Astro2010 Decadal Survey Committee.
David Charbonneau
DAVID CHARBONNEAU (NAS) is a professor at Harvard University in the Department of Astronomy. He was previously the R. A. Millikan Postdoctoral Scholar in Astronomy, at California Institute of Technology. His research focusses on the detection and characterization of planets orbiting other stars. He measured the first exoplanet transits, and developed the primary methods which astronomers now regularly use to investigate exoplanet atmospheres. He leads the MEarth project, with his team announced the discovery of several of the closest rocky exoplanets, which are amenable to characterization. His focus on low-mass stars as exoplanet targets has led to several discoveries concerning the physical processes by which theses stars maintain magnetic fields, and how they lose angular momentum as they age. He is a co-investigator in the NASA TESS Mission. He received his Ph.D. for astronomy at Harvard University. He has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Natascha Forster Schreiber
NATASCHA M. FÖRSTER SCHREIBER is a senior staff scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut fuer extraterrestrische Physik (MPE) in Garching, Germany. She has previously held positions of research associate at MPE, and postdoctoral researcher at Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands, and at CEA/DSM/DAPNIA/Service d'Astrophysique in Saclay, France. Her expertise is in the field of galaxy formation and evolution, and her current work focusses on galaxy kinematics, structure, stellar populations, and gas content from spatially-resolved and integrated properties using observations in the optical to infrared and millimeter regimes. She held a Minerva Fellowship of the Max-Planck-Society in 2008-2013, and was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa (Hon DSc) from the University of Bath, United Kingdom in 2019. She received her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the Ludwig-Maximilians Universitaet, Munich and MPE, Germany. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Suvi Gezari
SUVI GEZARI is an associate professor at University of Maryland. She has previously been an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University and a Hubble Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focus is on time domain astrophysics. She has used the Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) Survey, the Palomar Observatory surveys iPTF and ZTF at optical wavelengths and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) Time Domain Survey at ultraviolet wavelengths, together with follow-up space-based and ground-based observations from across the electromagnetic spectrum, to discover and characterize transients and study their physical properties. She has appeared in public television, the history channel and Canadian public radio discussing her research. She received the NSF CAREER award in 2015 for her research on "Probing the Demographics of Supermassive Black Holes with Time-Domain Observations of Tidal Disruption Events". She received her Ph.D. for astronomy from Columbia University. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Andrea M. Ghez
ANDREA M. GHEZ (NAS) is professor of physics and astronomy at University of California, Los Angeles in the division of physics and astronomy. She has previously held the positions of associate and assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at University of California, Los Angeles and was the Hubble postdoctoral research fellow at University of Arizona. Her expertise is related to the development and application of high spatial resolution infrared imaging techniques applied to the questions of the origin and early life of stars and planets, and the distribution and nature of matter at the center of our galaxy. Her work also strives to understand how a black hole gains mass from its surroundings and what can be learned by analogy about the formation and evolution of galaxies and their central black holes. She has received the Bakerian medal and the Crafoord prize. She received her Ph.D. for physics from California Institute of Technology. She has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Jenny E. Greene
JENNY E. GREENE is a professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. She has previously been an assistant professor of astronomy at University of Texas, Austin and a Carnegie-Princeton postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University. Her expertise is related to black hole mass measurements, black hole/galaxy connections, stellar and gaseous kinematics of galactic nuclei, stellar populations in galaxies, and the low surface brightness universe. She has received the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and the Bok prize from the Harvard astronomy department as well as the Annie Jump Cannon Award from AAS. She received her Ph.D. for astronomy from Harvard University. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
J. T. Hoeksema
J. TODD HOEKSEMA is a senior research scientist at Stanford University in the W.W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory. He has previously been a research associate at Stanford's Center for Space Science and Astrophysics and Heliophysics Discipline Scientist at NASA HQ. His primary scientific interests include physics of the Sun and heliosphere; solar and coronal magnetic fields; space weather; helioseismology; and education and public outreach. His experience includes research administration; system and scientific programming; and the design and operation of instruments to measure solar magnetic and velocity fields from ground and space. He is a Calvin College distinguished alumni and NASA distinguished public service medal recipient. He received his Ph.D. for applied physics from Stanford University. He has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Jacobus M. Oschmann
JACOBUS M. OSCHMANN is the 2019 SPIE president of the International Society for Optics and Photonics. He retired from the Ball Aerospace Corporation where he had served as the vice president and general manager of civil space and technology. Oschmann is known for his significant contributions to the field of optical sciences in optical design and technology development, along with his contributions to and management of space and earth science instrumentation projects. He has held various positions within SPIE including chair of the SPIE Membership Committee; the board of directors; and as past chair of SPIE Conference Optical, Infrared and Millimeter Space Telescopes. Oschmann has also served on numerous review committees for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). He established the Jacobus and Michelle Oschmann Scholarship in Optical Sciences and Business Leadership at University of Arizona. Oschmann received an M.S. in optical sciences, and an M.B.A. in business administration from University of Arizona. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Richard W. Pogge
RICHARD W. POGGE is professor and vice chair for Instrumentation at the Ohio State University. He is a co-discoverer of the Narrow Line Seyfert 1 subclass of AGN and did early work on the ionization morphology of active galactic nuclei. In recent years he led the building and commissioning of OSU’s twin multi-object optical spectrographs for the Large Binocular Telescope (MODS1 & MODS2), and has worked on every major instrument project at OSU since 1989. His current research is focused on understanding and revising the absolute metallicity calibration of HII regions in nearby and distant galaxies, a topic of crucial importance for understanding the chemical evolution and growth of galaxies over cosmic time, and he continues work on active galactic nuclei and exoplanets. He received his Ph.D. for astronomy and astrophysics from University of California Santa Cruz. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Massimo Robberto
MASSIMO ROBBERTO is an AURA Observatory Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute. He is also a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. He has previously been an astronomer at the European Space Agency and a staff astronomer at the Max Planck Institut für Astronomie in Heidelberg. At STscI he is the lead of the JWST/NIRCam team. Before working on the JWST/NIRCam, he was instrument scientist for the infrared channel of the Wide Field Camera 3 onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. He is principal investigator of SCORPIO, the Gen4#3 facility instrument at Gemini South, and principal investigator of SAMOS, an AO-fed MOS for SOAR. His main expertise is in the concept, development and operations of novel astronomical instrumentation. He has asteroid 2008 QE12 "Robberto" named after him. He received his Ph.D. for astronomy from University of Turin, Italy. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
David R. Silva
DAVID R. SILVA is Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Dean of the College of Sciences at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He is a former director of the National Science Foundation’s National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO, 2008 - 2019). His scientific research interests are in the general area of stars and stellar systems, especially as tracers for how galaxies formed and evolved over the last 13 billion years. He has extensive experience with the design, development, and operation of astronomical observatories, telescopes, focal-plane instruments, and data systems for the European, North American, and South American research communities. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.



Keck Center
500 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Event Type :  

Description :   

Astro2020: Panel on Optical and Infrared Observations from the Ground - Meeting 1

Open Session: Thursday, October 31, 8:30-9:15am, Briefing by Ralph Gaume, NSF, Conference Room Keck 103

The remainder of the full meeting, which is closed, is from October 29, 8am to 5pm, October 30, 8am to 5pm and October 31 9:15am to noon, but only open to panelists and staff.


The following information is provided for any members of the general public who may be in attendance:

This meeting is being held to gather information to help the committee conduct its study. This committee will examine the information and material obtained during this, and other public meetings, in an effort to inform its work. Although opinions may be stated and lively discussion may ensue, no conclusions are being drawn at this time and no recommendations will be made. In fact, the committee will deliberate thoroughly before writing its draft report. Moreover, once the draft report is written, it must go through a rigorous review by experts who are anonymous to the committee, and the committee then must respond to this review with appropriate revisions that adequately satisfy the Academy’s Report Review committee and the chair of the NRC before it is considered an NRC report. Therefore, observers who draw conclusions about the committee’s work based on today’s discussions will be doing so prematurely.

Furthermore, individual committee members often engage in discussion and questioning for the specific purpose of probing an issue and sharpening an argument. The comments of any given committee member may not necessarily reflect the position he or she may actually hold on the subject under discussion, to say nothing of that person’s future position as it may evolve in the course of the project. Any inference about an individual’s position regarding findings or recommendations in the final report are therefore also premature.


Keck Center: Is located at 500 Fifth St. NW, in Washington’s Penn Quarter district, adjacent to Judiciary Square and the Verizon Center. The closest Metro stations are Gallery Place/Chinatown (Red, Green and Yellow lines; take “7th and F St.” exit and turn left) and Judiciary Square (Red line; take National Building Museum exit and turn left). Directions available at the following website:

Keck Security/ID Required: Meeting attendees entering the building will need to show a photo ID to the Security Guard, who checks the ID against the attendee list.

Keck Parking: There is plenty of free parking in the Keck Center’s underground lot. Access to the lot is off of Sixth Street (between E and F Streets).

Wi-Fi Connection: To connect to the Wi-Fi choose “Visitor Network” then open up a browser and click “Accept terms and conditions.” You will then be connected to the internet.

Astro2020 Project Website:


Registration for Online Attendance :   

Registration for in Person Attendance :   

If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Megan Chamberlain
Contact Email:
Contact Phone:  (202) 334-3477

Supporting File(s)
Is it a Closed Session Event?
Some sessions are open and some sessions are closed

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Timothy M. Heckman - (Chair)
David Charbonneau
Suvi Gezari
Jenny E. Greene
J. T. Hoeksema
Richard W. Pogge
Massimo Robberto
David R. Silva

The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

The committee discussed the statement of task, whitepapers, RFI's and TRACE requests

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

No outside materials were distributed to the committee.

Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
October 30, 2019
Publication(s) resulting from the event:



  • Publications having no URL can be seen at the Public Access Records Office

No data present.