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Space Telescope Science Institute
Astrophysics 2020: Beyond the Next Decade

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About The Event

The goal of this workshop was to begin envisioning the astrophysics that could be accomplished from space in the 2020 era and beyond. Astrophysics in the 2020's will build upon the results obtained by JWST, ALMA, LSST, GMT, TMT, and other remarkable facilities now being planned for the coming decade. While predicting the precise areas in astronomy and astrophysics that will be most important in 15 to 25 years is difficult at best, the research topics that will be ripe for investigation will most likely be those that require sensitivities, discovery efficiencies, and/or spatial resolutions that significantly exceed what the above facilities will routinely provide.

These next levels of observational performance will surely be achieved, in part or wholly, using large space-based facilities. NASA's plans to operate the Ares V heavy launch vehicle means that many of the current technical barriers to placing large, massive and/ or voluminous astronomical payloads in orbit will be eliminated or greatly reduced. Additionally, robotic servicing technologies may well enable the ability to construct, deploy, and upgrade complex astronomical facilities in space. The time to start considering the scientific opportunities that these systems present is now, given that lead times of at least a decade are required for the most ambitious of these space-based astronomical investigations.

We also discussed critical pathfinder missions and technological innovations that need to be accomplished in the coming decade in order to enable innovative astronomy beyond the next decade.