Telescopes and Data of NSF's OIR LabPhoto montage of the facilities of the NSF’s OIR Lab. Photo credit: National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/AURA/NSF/P. Marenfeld

Enabling breakthrough discoveries in astrophysics with state-of-the art ground-based observatories, data products and services for a diverse and inclusive community.

NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NSF’s OIR Lab) is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy. The mission of NSF’s OIR Lab is to enable breakthrough discoveries in astrophysics by developing and operating state-of-the-art ground-based observatories and providing data products and services for a diverse and inclusive community. 

Through its five programs — Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), Gemini Observatory, Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) once operational — NSF’s OIR Lab serves as a focal point for community development of innovative scientific programs, the exchange of ideas, and creative development. The lab’s infrastructure enables the astronomy community to advance humanity’s understanding of the Universe by exploring significant areas of astrophysics, including dark energy and dark matter, galaxies and quasars, the Milky Way, exoplanets, and small bodies in our own Solar System.

NSF’s OIR Lab enhances the strengths of each facility and provides new opportunities for staff while expanding scientific capabilities and improving the experience for users. By providing cutting-edge facilities that benefit both the staff and the scientific community, the lab positively impacts ground-based nighttime astronomical science. In addition, the lab focuses on developing international collaborations and partnerships to advance ground-based optical and infrared facilities and capabilities.

In collaboration with the astronomical community, partner organizations, other US optical and infrared system operators, and NSF, NSF’s OIR Lab develops and advances a strategic vision for NSF-funded future optical and infrared facilities.

The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai’i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. NSF’s OIR Lab recognizes and acknowledges the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawai’ian community, and to the indigenous peoples of Chile, respectively.

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) operates these facilities and NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).