NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NSF’s NOIRLab) is the U.S. national center for ground-based, nighttime optical-infrared (OIR) astronomy. It is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, sponsored by NSF and managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., that incorporates four programs, the Mid-Scale Observatories (MSO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), the international Gemini Observatory, and Vera C. Rubin Observatory operations. MSO in turn comprises the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). Prior to October 1, 2019, CSDC and the facilities associated with CTIO and KPNO were part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), an organization that has since transitioned to being part of the new center.
The facilities at KPNO in Arizona include the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope and the 4-meter Mayall telescope. CTIO in Chile operates the 4-meter Blanco telescope (a near twin to the Mayall) and the 4.1-meter SOuthern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope. Both observatories also support the operation of a number of other smaller telescopes located at each site.
As the US national center for ground-based OIR astronomy, NOIRLab will operate and maintain OIR observational research facilities and related data systems; to coordinate and integrate observational, technical, and data-oriented capabilities available throughout the U.S. OIR System of federal and nonfederal assets; and to initiate, develop, and sustain domestic and international collaborations and partnerships to advance ground-based OIR facilities and capabilities. Its mission is to enable breakthrough discoveries in ground-based OIR astronomy and astrophysics.