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Chandra Users' Committee Meeting (13-14 October 2011)

Report issued on 06 Dec 2011

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Lee Armus
Franz Bauer
Tiziana DiMatteo
Erica Ellingson
Jimmy Irwin
Tim Kallman
Hironori Matsumoto
Jon Miller (Chair; jonmm@umich.edu)
Pedro Rodriguez (ESA)
Massimo Stiavelli
John Tomsick
Joan Wrobel (by phone)

Overall Assessment

The committee is extremely impressed by the science returns of the observatory, and the dedication of the observatory staff at all levels to supporting the community of users. Both in an absolute sense and in a science per dollar sense, Chandra is achieving remarkable and valuable results that make contact with numerous missions and all available wavelengths. The returns of the mission appear to be undiminished since its start. The spacecraft itself is in excellent shape; aging in the detectors is extremely slow and well characterized. The calibration of the mission, its software suite for science analysis, the data archive, helpdesk, and user funding are all exemplary. The CUC sees Chandra as a flagship mission at the forefront of US astrophysics efforts.

Summary of the Presentations and Interactions


  1. The CUC agrees with the CXC that it is time to phase-out support of Solaris platforms, as they are a very small fraction of the total CIAO downloads. Users will still be able to build CIAO from source distributions for Solaris platforms.

  2. The CUC congratulates Chandra on the implementation of the XVP program previously, and we note the high over-subscription. The CUC endorses the initiative to have a second round of XVP to be implemented in Cycle 14.

  3. The CUC encourages Chandra to investigate joint observing programs with new and upcoming observatories and missions, including ALMA, NuSTAR, and Astro-H. In particular, ALMA is now making observations and a joint program would be timely.

  4. The CUC strongly supports the continuation of the theory proposal funding program. In the last cycle, this program was over-subscribed by a factor of six, which is comparable with observing program categories. The 2010 Decadal Survey has recommended expansion of theory funding. NASA is proposing to increase its funding of theory; however, until NASA opens a clear venue for funding of single- year, focused, mission-based proposals, it is highly uncertain that there will be support for the type of investigations covered by the Chandra theory program. The science return of the mission partially depends on the ability of theorists to conduct focused studies to address Chandra observations.

    The CUC recommends that the theory program should be preserved, and that cuts by NASA beyond the recommendations of the 2010 Senior Review should be absorbed uniformly through the various funding programs.

  5. The CUC feels that a high level of GO funding must be retained, in order to ensure the science return of the mission. We encourage that GO funding should be insulated - to the greatest extent possible - from additional cuts to the observatory budget. The CUC notes that augmentation of the GO funding program is needed to compensate for the additional observing time available in Cycles 14-16 (due to orbital evolution) while the GO funding level has remained flat in real dollars. Funding for archival research is also important, as it is an entry point for observers who typically work in other wavelengths.

    The CUC encourages Chandra to make GO funding the highest-priority augmentation to the in-guide funding level from the 2012 Senior Review.

  6. The Einstein Fellowship program is highly competitive (174 applications for 10 places last year), and the data presented by the CXC strongly indicates that the current rules work extremely well. The CUC notes that the Hubble Fellowship program is also highly successful and has always adhered to a one fellow per institution rule; Hubble has a longer track record and offers a larger number of fellowships.

    The Physics of the Cosmos program is an important NASA endeavor that enables breakthrough research at a large number of institutions around the country. The Einstein Fellowship is an essential means of maintaining and broadening the research base of the Physics of the Cosmos program and its missions. Relaxation of the current hosting rules would result in greater concentration of fellowships at fewer institutions, which would not serve the scientific or programmatic goals of the Einstein Fellowship.

    The CUC strongly recommends the continuation of the Einstein Fellowship program according to the current rules, including a limit of one fellow per institution per year.

  7. The CUC recommends that Chandra adopt a means of tracking the outcome of theory proposals, DDT proposals, and archive proposals, in addition to the tracking that is performed for regular observing proposals.

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