National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC)

The National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) was officially founded in April 2001 through the merger of four observatories, three observing stations and one research center, all under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

NAOC is headquartered in Beijing and has four subordinate units across the country: the Yunnan Observatory (YNAO), the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology (NIAOT), the Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory (XAO) and the Changchun Observatory.

The headquarters of NAOC, located in Beijing and formerly known as the Beijing Astronomical Observatory, is simply referred to as NAOC. Established in 1958 and aiming at the forefront of astronomical science, NAOC conducts cutting-edge astronomical studies, operates major national facilities and develops state-of the-art technological innovations. Applying astronomical methods and knowledge to fulfill national interests and needs is also an integral part of the mission of NAOC. NAOC hosts the Center for Astronomical Mega-Science of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAMS), which is a new initiative to establish a mechanism for reaching consensus in the construction of major facilities, operations and technology developments among the CAS core observatories (NAOC; the Purple Mountain Observatory, PMO; and the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, SHAO). CAMS will strive for the sharing of financial, personnel resources and technical expertise among the three core observatories of CAS.

NAOC’s main research involves cosmological large-scale structures, the formation and evolution of galaxies and stars, high-energy astrophysics, solar magnetism and activity, lunar and deep space exploration, and astronomical instrumentation.

NAOC has seven major research divisions in the areas of optical astronomy, radio astronomy, galaxies and cosmology, space science, solar physics, lunar and deep space exploration, and applications in astronomy. These divisions encompass more than 50 research groups and house the CAS Key Laboratories of Optical Astronomy, Solar Activity, Lunar and Deep-Space Exploration, Space Astronomical Science and Technology, and Computational Astrophysics.

NAOC also has three major observing stations: Xinglong, for optical and infrared astronomy; Huairou, for solar magnetics; and Miyun, for radio astronomy and satellite data downlinks. NAOC has been deeply involved in the China Lunar Exploration Program, from designing and managing lunar exploration satellite payload systems, to receiving, storing and analyzing the data transmitted by these satellites from space. NAOC also has a GPU super-cluster computing facility with 85 nodes at a peak performance of up to 280 teraflops.

NAOC also publishes Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics (RAA), a journal catalogued by SCI.

As of 2014, the number of staff affiliated with NAOC was about 748. Among its staff are seven CAS members, 114 research professors and 183 associate research professors. NAOC has 38 postdoctoral research fellows, along with 153 doctoral students and 80 master’s students.

NAOC constructs and operates a wide variety of facilities at the national level. The Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopy Telescope (LAMOST), also known as the Guoshoujing Telescope, which is equipped with large FOV optics and up to 4,000 fibers on the focal plane, was put into scientific use in June 2009. The world’s largest single dish radio telescope, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), is now under construction in Guizhou Province, in southwest China. Construction has already been completed on the 21-Centimeter Array (21CMA), which will be used to study the cosmic Epoch of Reionization, as well as on the Chinese Solar Radio Heliograph (CSRH). In the future, NAOC hopes to develop remote and better sites in Yangbajing and Ali, Tibet for new optical-infrared and submillimeter facilities.

NAOC actively collaborates with scientists around the world. Together with its Chinese counterparts in other CAS institutes and Chinese universities, NAOC has vigorously participated in building the Thirty-Meter-Telescope (TMT) International Observatory. NAOC also initiated the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) international project with 10 other countries. The CAS South American Center for Astronomy (CASSACA), also known as the China-Chile Joint Research Center for Astronomy (CCJCA), was established in 2013 in Santiago, Chile. NAOC joints the international collaboration of Antarctic Astronomy. NAOC has a South American station located in Argentina that runs its Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) project. In addition, the China-Argentina 40m Radio Telescope is under construction. NAOC also engages in collaboration through the Chinese-French Origins International Associated Laboratory, the International Space Environment Service Regional Warning Center of China (ISES-RWCC), the East Asian Core Observatories Association (EACOA) and East Asian Observatory (EAO).