Funding astronomical research

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Astronomy in the United States is funded mainly by two government agencies, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA.

In other parts of the world, the details and level of funding vary, but in western countries the overall picture is much the same as in the United States. Most of the NSF money spent on astronomy goes to support the national observatories. A number of smaller observatories are partially or wholly funded by the NSF, at levels ranging from $50000 to $2 000000 per year. The rest of the NSF money goes as grants to individual astronomers (or small groups) to pay for computers, travel to observatories, students' and postdoctoral researchers' salaries, and various sundry items like publication charges. It costs about $100 per page to publish a paper in a professional journal; an average paper is about 8 pages long and a typical astronomer publishes one or two papers per year.

Kitt Peak National Observatory is part of a larger parent organization, NOAO, which in turn is administered by the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA). AURA is a corporation that was set up by a consortium of universities to oversee the operation of NOAO, and has since taken on responsibility for the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Gemini project. Gemini is an international cooperative effort (partner countries are the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina) that operates two 8-meter telescopes, one on Mauna Kea, and another in Chile.

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