2.7.3 Space: The Department shares quarters with UCO, and it is difficult to discuss the question of space needs separately from the Observatory, whose needs are also acute. Present campus plans say that no additional state-funded academic space will be provided to Astronomy before 2018, and probably not even then. If we are to win new space, it must come from new projects, as CfAO did, or because UCO gains new space through its separate line item in the University budget, which in turn might free up space for the Department.
A space study conducted in the fall of 2005 showed that total personnel in Astronomy units grew by 45% over the previous decade but that the number of faculty increased by only 5%. The growth was due mainly to more technical staff in UCO and to larger faculty research grants, which led to more graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The CfAO building absorbed only about half of this growth; the rest was accommodated through higher density. In 2006, the Department was given four more offices and a conference room in a distant building. We are shifting graduate students and emeritus faculty over there, at two per office. We also received a large bull-pen office, which was used for the undergraduate computer lounge.
Looking forward, the Department can consolidate a bit further by converting one spare classroom to office space, moving the Department Administrator into the Department office, withdrawing academic offices from faculty acting as administrators, and putting visitor offices in printer rooms. The sunset of CfAO in November 2009 will yield additional space. Altogether, we can absorb perhaps 10-20% more people, which would be adequate to house the requested four new faculty plus their graduate students and postdocs. This is also consistent with the 10-20% expansion in the graduate program mentioned above.
In short, we are optimistic that four new Department faculty and their research groups can be accommodated within in the present space footprint. However, this assumes that most of CfAO will be retained as Departmental academic space, and it does not allow for any significant expansion by the Observatory. Other space needs would also be unmet, such as facilities for a new visualization center (see below), a first-class undergraduate laboratory, and expansion space for future supercomputers. It is well known that lack of space is the main obstacleto growing programs in the PBSci Division, and Astronomy suffers acutely from this problem, along with other departments. Our development program places high priority on funds for new space, but, realistically, the Division space problem is one that we cannot solve on our own.
The argument for using a large part of the CfAO building for Department academic space would be bolstered if a new scientific center could be created and housed there, possibly in addition to a down-sized future CfAO. Possibilities are discussed under New Initiatives below.
3. Future directions for the research program This section is in three parts: the first part draws high-level conclusions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the research program based on the preceding evidence. The second section lists illustrative science goals within each of our three science excellence areas and mentions actions that will need to be taken in order to realize those goals. The third section describes three major new Department initiatives.
3.1 Assets and challenges The following broad conclusions have emerged from the above discussion:
The Department’s proposed areas of science excellence—cosmology and galaxy formation, high-energy astrophysics, and star/planet/solar-system formation—will remain key areas of astronomical research for at least the next decade. The basic themes of the research program are well aligned with anticipated future major scientific developments.
The current faculty has significant strength in all three chosen science areas, and affiliated faculty in Physics, EPS, and AMS also fit in well with this program. Recent hires have bolstered all three fields and strengthened the cohesiveness of the program, within the Department and between it and its affiliated departments.
A particular asset of UCSC Astronomy is the presence of excellent theoretical and observational groups working in close proximity. Such collaborations are particularly powerful when the needed instrumentation originates atUCSC, such as the DEEP2 Survey, which used DEIMOS, the extrasolar planet searches, which use HIRES at Keck and telescopes at Lick, the CATS survey of high-redshift galaxies, utilizing the laser-guide star AO system at Keck, and the budding gamma-ray program with Physics based on GLAST. However, the full potential of collaboration has not yet been fully realized, and future Astronomy hires should be used, among other things, to knit instrumentalists, observers, and theorists more tightly together. Skimming scientific cream from the TMT and adaptive optics is particularly important. Another goal should be to increase theoretical expertise in cosmology, stellar evolution, and galaxy formation to balance the large number of observers in this area.
The faculty is well positioned to exploit most upcoming telescopes, with the notable exception of long-wavelength observatories such as Herschel, JWST, ALMA, and the EVLA. Such long-wavelength data are crucial for star, planet, and galaxy formation, and utilizing them is a major reason to broaden faculty expertise.
Fourteen faculty are leading programs in computational astrophysics, including Woosley, Lin, Madau, Laughlin, Ramirez-Ruiz, Krumholz, and Fortney in Astronomy; Primack and Aguirre in Physics; Glatzmaier, Nimmo, and Asphaug in EPS; and Garaud and Brummell in AMS. Research programs span end-stage stellar evolution, planetary structure, high-energy astrophysics, gravitational dynamics, fluid dynamics, and magneto-hydrodynamics and share many common needs for both software and hardware. The size and breadth of this group are major assets, and together the group is seeking to create a computational astrophysics center, which is our second top-priority new initiative (see below).
A concern is the lack of any formal funded center for astrophysics. This lack comes at a time when many of our competitors have created similar centers, such as the Kavli Institutes at Stanford and Chicago, the Institute for Theory and Computation at Harvard, the Physics Frontier Center at Chicago, the Moore Center for Theoretical Cosmology and Physics at Caltech, and the Theoretical Astrophysics Center at UCB. Generated from a mix of private, federal, and campus funds, these centers support a constant stream of visitors, conferences, workshops, and the all-important prize postdoctoral fellowships. If UCSC Astronomy expects to stay among the first rank of leading astronomy departments, it must create something similar. Our initiative to found a computational astrophysics center is presently the strongest candidate for filling this need.
3.2 Sample science goals
This section lists illustrative goals for the next decade in each of the three chosen science areas, together with major actions that will be needed in order to make them a reality.
3.2.1 Star, planet, and solar system formation: Goals in this area are to play a leadership role in finding and characterizing large numbers of extrasolar planetary systems and to measure and model the properties of interesting individual systems. On larger scales, we hope to make major progress in unraveling the fundamental physics of star formation and use that knowledge to explain the star-formation scaling laws that are emerging from studies of external galaxies.
Key actions include enlarging our ongoing Doppler planet searches to find more extrasolar planets with HIRES on Keck and the new dedicated APF telescope on Mt. Hamilton. As they lengthen in time, these databases will become more and more powerful for finding longer-period giant planets (like our Jupiter) and “super-earths” in multi-planet systems. We are already involved in the direct detection of “young jupiters” close to parent stars using the Spitzer satellite, and we expect to find more using AO on Keck and TMT and NASA’s SIM and TPF satellites (if the latter are built). We will also pursue transit searches with existing equipment and with the future Corot and Kepler satellites. Larger, long-term milestones are acquiring infrared spectra of individual protoplanetary disks and young jupiters with TMT.
Sample theory goals in this area include accurate dynamical models of multi-planet systems and interior and atmosphere models for hot jupiters. The latter will enable us to simulate the appearance of individual gas-giant planets taking orbital and insolation characteristics into account. These projects would benefit from new faculty FTE with expertise in radiative transfer and/or dynamic planetary atmospheres. The resultant simulations could be used to make the first truly realistic images of distant planetary systems, which in turn leads to the concept of a visualization center as an integral component within the computational astrophysics institute. Star-formation studies will require both hydrodynamic and magneto-hydrodynamic simulations of collapsing interstellar gas clouds. Perhaps more than any other computation, these require the world’s very largest supercomputers, which means having machines like Pleiades and its descendants on campus for debugging codes and analyzing huge simulation outputs that will run to many terabytes. For this, a state-of-the-art visualization center is again needed.
Data on star formation will explode with the construction of long-wavelength telescopes starting with Herschel in 2008 and extending through JWST, ALMA, and the EVLA. These telescopes will collectively provide detailed information on gas chemistry and properties near forming stars within our Galaxy, the integrated properties of star-forming regions in external galaxies, ice and dust grains coagulating to form protoplanets, and detection of individual protoplanets. The data will potentially unlock one of astronomy’s greatest secrets—why and how stars form. Thanks to these telescopes, the subject of star and planet formation is arguably going to be the most exciting astronomical frontier of the next twenty years, and UCSC’s ability to attract excellent graduate students and postdocs depends critically on mounting a successful program in this area. We already have much of the needed theoretical expertise but would benefit from theorists working on interstellar molecule or grain chemistry. We may also wish to hire one or more long-wavelength observers who would observe with these telescopes.
A further opportunity in star and planet formation is afforded by the coming CODEP faculty search in Fall 2009 within EPS. Possibilities discussed include an expert in planetary atmospheric dynamics or a cosmo-chemist working on the chemical composition of the proto-solar nebula. Either of these would articulate well with Astronomy. A third possibility is an expert in the interiors of “super-earths,” who could form the nucleus for a future center on the geological and atmospheric evolution of terrestrial planets more massive than our own. Super-earths in large numbers will likely be detected by planet searches.
3.2.2 High-energy astrophysics:The High Energy Astrophysics Group at UCSC deals with a broad range of astrophysical problems with a particular focus on the interaction of matter with radiation under extreme physical conditions. Objects include the Universe as a whole, clusters of galaxies, black holes and jets in AGN, and accreting black holes and neutron stars. Recurring themes are how matter accretes onto compact objects (such as neutron stars, gamma-ray bursters, and supernova explosions), and nonthermal processes in astrophysical plasmas including high-energy particle production. This last is closely related to experimental work being done in the Physics Department. Sample questions illustrating these themes include models for the structure and formation of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the growth and evolution of supermassive black holes (BHs) that power quasars and active galactic nuclei (AGN), and a detailed understanding of supernovae explosions. GLAST will provide important data on the gamma-ray spectra of GRBs, and Keck and TMT will determine the rate of formation of AGN and black hole growth over the lifetime of the Universe. Projects for using distant supernovae as cosmological yardsticks are being widely discussed in the astronomical community, and our faculty are working hard to develop the theory needed to convert these objects into precision cosmic distance indicators. Finally, possibilities for detecting nearby remnant black holes at the centers of galaxies with Hubble have been exhausted, but the subject is going to be rejuvenated with adaptive optics on Keck and will receive an even bigger boost from TMT. Herschel, ALMA, JWST, and the EVLA will resolve the long-standing problem of whether galactic nuclei are powered by starbursts or by AGN.
High-energy astrophysics offers some of the best topics for collaboration between UCSC theorists and observers. The budding GLAST collaboration is an example, with observational roots in Physics and theorists participating from Astronomy. Black holes are another area where we have both theorists and observers working. None of our observers is as yet participating in distant supernovae surveys, but a seat on the proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope would open that avenue.
Much theoretical work in high-energy astrophysics again depends on very high-resolution computer simulations, which have similar requirements to those already mentioned. A radiative transfer theorist would be a great help to supernovae models.
3.2.3 Cosmology and galaxy formation:As pursued at UCSC, this topic means the evolution of the Universe as it was emerging from the “dark ages” before there were galaxies, followed by the formation of galaxies and their evolution to the present time. Our goals in this area are to simulate the first collapsed structures in the Universe (roughly 500 million years after the Big Bang) and follow their subsequent merging and growth to become fully formed galaxies. In parallel, we are well positioned to develop a global theory of star formation in galaxies by embedding molecular cloud models within the broader environments of galaxies. That same context will be needed to convert supernovae into precision cosmic distance indicators. The resultant supernova theories will also yield precision nucleosynthesis predictions for the abundance of the chemical elements, which several UCO observers are measuring in stars, globular clusters, and galaxies.
Observationally, UCSC will build on the DEEP2, AEGIS, and First Galaxies surveys using Keck and Hubble, and TMT and JWST will extend this work for at least another 10-20 years. Maturing laser-guide-star technology on Keck and (later) on TMT will yield spectacular high-resolution AO images of galaxies at near-IR and even redder optical bands. The four upcoming long-wavelength telescopes (Herschel, JWST, ALMA, and EVLA) will measure star formation on galactic scales back to early cosmic times, providing a vital test of early star-formation theories. Nearer by, SEGUE’s survey of the motions and compositions of stars in the Milky Way—and similar UCSC data on M31 from Keck and TMT—will provide the ultimate challenge to galaxy-formation models. Future extensions of SAGES and similar globular cluster surveys will reveal the cosmic roots of star formation in nearby galaxies. Principal UCSC instruments needed for these nearby studies are high-resolution and multi-object spectrographs on Keck, and, later, TMT.
The final topic in this realm is the nature of dark matter. UCSC instrument opportunities include the GLAST satellite, which may detect dark-matter annihilation within galactic dark-matter halos, and SCIPP experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, which may create dark-matter particles directly. Regardless of these findings, the astrophysical context for dark matter will always be important, and Astronomy can help with high-resolution simulations of cosmic structure and galaxy dark-matter halos.
In considering new faculty for this area, we recall that Table 1 showed several UCO observers working on galaxy formation and stellar evolution but few theorists in these areas. New theorists who could provide balance in this area include radiative-transfer specialists and a classic stellar-evolution expert, since so many projects touch this field. Understanding star formation at high redshift needs faculty working with the suite of new long-wavelength telescopes. High-speed computers for realistic cosmic simulations are, as always, key.
3.3 New initiatives A number of themes emerge repeatedly in the above review, which we have taken as launching pads for new initiatives. UCO plans that also need to be accommodated include building the TMT and potential expansion and renovation of the UCO shops and laboratories; the latter, if successful, could free up space for the Department. CfAO, if continued, will also need space.
3.3.1 Computational astrophysics initiative:A high-priority initiative for the next review period is to establish and fund a center for computational astrophysics, which we tentatively call the Center for Cosmic Origin Simulations and Visualizations (COSV). Given the key role that simulations play in every one of our three science areas, access to forefront computational facilities is the single most important capital investment needed by our theory faculty. Such a center would do several things; it would create a vibrant intellectual home on campus for graduate students and postdocs, it would advertise UCSC’s computational achievements to the outside world, it would create a visible focal point for writing grant proposals and partnering with other universities, and it would be a high-profile magnet for attracting the best graduate students, postdocs, and visitors. Achieving higher visibility for UCSC efforts is important. A center with first-class computational facilities and appropriate support would quickly propel this group to international attention. We reaped that benefit from CfAO, and astrophysics centers at Harvard, Chicago, UCSB, and Stanford have had the same effect.
What would COSV need? Faculty are not a problem—we already have a large pool, and planned future hires will bring more. Space is tight but probably can be managed (see above). The main challenges are staff support and certain specialized physical facilities. For example, in the long run we expect that at least two mini-supercomputers will be resident on campus, and the extra one will also need its own space, power, and cooling. Together with Pleiades, these facilities might form the nucleus of a UCSC high-performance computing centerbenefiting multiple departments, an idea that we have suggested to Information and Technical Services. COSV also needs a visualization center for inspecting simulation outputs, making cosmic “movies” and other renderings of scientific data, and displaying scientific results to popular audiences. A “cosmic theatre” in COSV would be a showcase destination on campus for potential donors. The last element of COSV is a suite of endowed prize postdoctoral fellowships, which would also count toward satisfying the general need for prize postdoctoral fellows expressed in Section 2.5. A budget for visitors, conferences, and workshops would round out the package.
The operating budget of such a center would be of order $1 M per year (not counting faculty salaries), of which half would come from private (i.e., campus) funds and half from faculty grants, with the hope of also winning federal center funds like those that funded CfAO. Launching COSV as part of the Thirty-Meter Telescope is yet another possibility, as is partnering with other nearby computational powers such as Berkeley, Stanford, Ames, LLNL, and LBL. The geographic center of such a partnership would be in Silicon Valley, which would facilitate links to UCSC’s Silicon Valley Center and the UARC. Raising campus funds will require strong support from the campus Development office, and we therefore put COSV forward as one oftwo top-priority items for the UCSC Comprehensive Campaign(the other being prize postdoctoral fellowships). 3.3.2 Long-wavelength astronomy initiative: Star, planet, and galaxy formation promise to be the fastest growing areas in astronomy in the next decade, in large part because of four upcoming long-wavelength telescopes—Herschel, JWST, ALMA, and EVLA—which will revolutionize the field. However excellent all the other aspects of our program may—Doppler planet detection, AO imaging, TMT spectra, theoretical star-formation simulations, etc.—failure to exploit these new telescopes will leave our research program seriously incomplete.
We are not sure at this writing exactly how to pursue this goal—what wavelengths to pursue within this broad regime, and whether to hire observers, theorists, or a blend. Developing a strategy is an urgent task for next year, and the External Review committee’s advice is particularly timely and welcome. Given the broad science and large wavelength domain, starting with two FTE is a minimum, and hence we request adding two more FTE to the present hiring plan, for a total of four. A strategy for accelerating these positions by mortgaging future vacancies is mentioned in the next section.
3.3.3 Development initiative:The third major new initiative is a concerted effort in private fund-raising. This activity would be new for the Department, which has not engaged in full-scale development efforts before. In collaboration with the Observatory and CfAO, we have been laying groundwork by enlarging our list of potential donors and courting them with campus events and telescope tours (see Entrepreneurial Efforts). With help from our new full-time development staff person next year, we are poised to intensify contacts with potential donors, create a newsletter, reach out to Astronomy alumni, and assist broadly in the Campus Comprehensive Campaign. As stated, the highest priorities for new Department funds are endowed prize postdoctoral fellowships and a computational astrophysics center. Next in line are graduate fellowships and the Department endowment. Third in line are facilities and space for a first-class undergraduate laboratory. Development efforts in the Department must be tightly coordinated with the Observatory and with CfAO, which have similar aspirations but different projects. The Department also needs its own development budget to pay for fund-raising activities like travel, entertainment, and materials.
3.4 Faculty hiring plan and schedule Four new Department FTE were requested at the last External Review in 2000. Despite concurrence by the Dean and the Committee on Planning and Budget (see Appendix Ik), this expansion did not occur, and, owing to retirements and faculty moving to administration, the number of effective6 Department FTE in 2007-8 will actually be one fewer than it was in 1999-00. The current Divisional hiring plan (Appendix Ih) has Astronomy receiving two new Department faculty by 2010-11, one in theoretical planet/star/solar system formation, the other in theoretical galaxy formation and cosmology. These theory slots cannot be let go—with only six active theorists, the theory program has important gaps and lacks critical mass as it is. The previous External Review committee also urged more theorists, who function as “glue” to bind the Department together. Hence, the present plan leaves no room at all for a long-wavelength initiative, which would require two more FTE, or four in all. Prospective retirements provide little relief, as at most only one Department member is likely to retire during the next review period, and near the end at that.