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Research Programs

The US-ELTP will enable and manage open access to both the Thirty Meter Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope for the US community, offering unique research opportunities afforded by a two-telescope, two-hemisphere ELT collaboration — an exclusive advantage for US scientists in the global extremely large telescope era. Many of the essential scientific questions in this era will require large observing programs using multiple instruments and coordination with other observational facilities and datasets, prompting a significant investment in large-scale research programs. The US-ELTP will therefore support a mix of large, collaborative science programs and smaller, individually led programs.

Scientists affiliated with any US institution will have the opportunity to conduct research projects through the US-ELTP, utilizing the Thirty Meter Telescope and Giant Magellan Telescope observatories either independently, jointly, or in combination with other resources available through NOIRLab. Any researcher at any institute in the US will benefit from the US-ELTP’s Research Inclusion Initiative, which aims to maximize diversity among those accessing the observatories and archival resources while broadening and growing the community by reducing technical and structural barriers to utilizing the US-ELTP system.

There are three primary avenues for research within the US-ELTP. The first avenue is the Key Science Programs, which will receive the largest allocation of time administered by NOIRLab. These programs are large-scale initiatives dedicated to addressing cutting-edge research as outlined in various US-ELTP Science Cases, often requiring tens of nights of observations over multiple semesters.

The second avenue is via Discovery Science Programs, which reserve ~20% of US-ELTP observing time for Principal Investigator-driven research projects that require smaller blocks of time. These programs are agile, exploratory, and responsive to new scientific opportunities.

Lastly, the US-ELTP will fully support researchers leading Archival Research Projects. All data produced by Key Science Programs and Discovery Science Programs will be reduced and stored in a publicly accessible US-ELTP Science Archive. Additionally, NOIRLab will operate a science platform that offers computing and data storage resources. This platform will enable researchers to reprocess data using customized parameter settings or workflows, as well as to visualize and analyze data using standard or custom data analysis software. All research involving the US-ELTP will rely on high-quality data reduction pipelines, and so NOIRLab and the teams developing instruments for the Thirty Meter Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope will collaboratively develop, maintain, and upgrade high-quality data reduction pipelines.