NOAO is hosting a Community Workshop aimed at understanding the broader astrophysical impact of the proposed BigBOSS wide-field multi-object spectrograph. This workshop will provide opportunities for the astronomical community to (a) learn about the capabilities of the BigBOSS instrument; (b) share their aspirations for the science they hope to do with BigBOSS; and (c) have an impact on the prioritization and preservation of instrument capabilities, observing modes and data pipeline deliverables. The workshop will also provide an opportunity for interested researchers to meet and form collaboration networks based on common interests in science surveys with BigBOSS and to interact directly with members of the BigBOSS Collaboration.

Advances in our astrophysical understanding of the universe fundamentally rely on advances in our observational capabilities. By expanding the observational phase space (through improvements in wavelength coverage, flux detection limits, spectral resolution, and/or sample size), we greatly improve our ability to answer fundamental astrophysical questions and expand our discovery space. In particular, several recent studies have demonstrated that large spectroscopic surveys can yield unique insights into cosmology, large scale structure, galaxy evolution, the structure, origin and evolution of the Milky Way and its neighbors, and stellar astrophysics.

In order to assess the scientific impact of a highly-multiplexed wide-field spectroscopic capability proposed for the 4-meter Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, NOAO is hosting a Community Workshop in Tucson, Arizona, on September 13 and 14, 2011. BigBOSS is a moderate resolution (R=5000) spectrograph covering a broad wavelength range (3800-10600A) with the unique ability to provide simultaneous spectroscopic observations of up to 5000 targets spread over a 3-degree diameter field of view. If constructed for the Mayall telescope, BigBOSS will enable a unique spectroscopic capability for the astronomical community.

Purpose of the Workshop:

The goal of this workshop is to identify key scientific questions that can be addressed (and in particular, scientific projects that can be carried out) using a wide-field, highly multiplexed multi-object spectroscopic capability on the Mayall 4m telescope. By engaging the user community and increasing their awareness of BigBOSS at this early stage, NOAO will be able to identify and preserve key observing modes, instrumental and scientific capabilities for the instrument, or influence the observing cadence during the proposed Key Science Project.

Structure of the Workshop:

The workshop will consist of a few invited talks that review the proposed instrument capabilities, user modes and access, and data products. The first day of the workshop will devote significant time to discussion in break-out sessions. The break-out sessions will focus on scientifically interesting applications for the instrument, identify the key observing modes and capabilities needed, and determine the requirements (if any) that need to be placed on the data pipelines in order to carry out the proposed science. We encourage attendees to prepare short (5-minute) contributed talks to the break-out sessions; these talks should present ideas for compelling research projects in the presenter’s field of expertise that will be enabled by BigBOSS. During the second day, the leaders of each break-out session will provide brief reports and there will be a “lightning round” of presentations on the most compelling science programs (1-viewgraph per project).

Background on BigBOSS

A BigBOSS fact sheet can be found here [PDF].

The BigBOSS experiment was described in a 2009 white paper and in an oral presentation to the Astro2010 Decadal Survey. The Astro2010 Panel Report on OIR Astronomy from the Ground subsequently identified massively multiplexed spectroscopy as an essential capability for this decade.

The BigBOSS experiment was itself described as a “compelling” medium-scale project in the Astro2010 New Worlds New Horizons report, and it was one of a small group of medium-scale projects that were highly recommended by the Astro2010 Program Prioritization Panel.

In parallel with these events, the BigBOSS collaboration responded to the NOAO call for Large Science Program proposals issued in 2009 December. A detailed 280 page proposal for the BigBOSS instrument and survey was submitted to NOAO in 2010 October. The non-advocate review committee strongly endorsed the proposal and urged NOAO and the collaboration to bring BigBOSS to fruition.

A more recent revised version of the proposal can be found at