The U.S. National Observatories
In the late 1950's, the
National Science Foundation, in cooperation
with astronomers at universities across the United States, established
national observatories to provide ground based
telescope facilities for research
in both optical and radio astronomy. Unlike private observatories,
the telescopes at the national observatories are open to qualified
astronomers regardless of institutional affiliation. Decisions on
the allocation of telescope time are made through peer review based
on scientific merit and technical feasibility.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
is operated by
Associated Universities (AUI),
Inc. under a cooperative agreement with
the National Science Foundation. The NRAO operates several
radio telescopes at its site in
Green Bank, West Virginia,
including the Green Bank Telescope, plus
Very Large Array of radio telescopes near Socorro,
New Mexico, and the
Very Long Baseline Array which consists of ten antennas spread
around the US. The NRAO is also constructing
the Atacama Large Millimeter Array,
an array of millimeter wave dishes to be located in Chile
in conjunction with a European consortion, and the Japanese.
Another major ongoing effort is the long-await renewal and expansion of
the dubbed the EVLA (Expanded Very Large
The National Astronomy and Ionosphere
Center is operated by Cornell
University under a cooperative agreement with the National Science
Foundation. Its major telescope facility is the Arecibo Observatory
located near the city of Arecibo in northwestern Puerto Rico.
A major upgrading project was recently completed to
improve the performance of the antenna and allow greater
frequency coverage and flexibility.
National Optical Astronomy Observatories are operated by
Associated Universities for
Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc., under
a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.
The NOAO is comprised of the Kitt Peak National Observatory, with
telescopes on Kitt Peak about 60 miles southwest of Tucson, Arizona,
the National Solar Observatory, with telescopes both on Kitt Peak
and on Sacramento Peak, near Sunspot, New Mexico, and the
Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, with telescopes near
the city of La Serena in the Andes Mountains of Chile.
The largest public access optical-infrared telescopes in the U.S. the twin
8-m telecopes that comprise the
Gemini Observatory, an international partnership. One telescope is
locate on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, while the other is located on Cerro Pachon
in Chile, giving astronomers access to the entire sky.
NASA, of course, supports its own facility for the
Hubble Space Telescope,
the Space Telescope Science Institute,
located on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But
that's not quite the same arrangement as the NSF "national observatories".