(and why research is fundamental to learning and advancing knowledge)

What do donations help us to do?  EVERYTHING outside of standard classroom lecturing!  To donate to
Cardinal Astronomy, click on
and specify "other" for the fund, then type in "Fund for Astronomy Research (G2723).

Why do we do research?
1) To train students to solve real-world problems.
2) To advance the body of knowledge. All basic research eventually gets applied.
Nobody thought of a use for general relativity when Albert Einstein came up with the idea.
Now we use it every day with GPS systems.
3) To answer fundamental questions arising from our human curiosity:
Where are we?
Where did we come from?
How did we get here?
Where are we going?
Are we alone in the Universe?

Expenses to do research, which are usually NOT funded by the University, either depend on very hard-to-obtain
grants or donations.  Most major university astronomy groups/departments rely on donations to "start-up" their research,
and the consequent increase in their research output helps them to compete for national government grants
(usually from NASA or the National Science Foundation or NSF) to educate students even better.
Your donations could pay for:

Funding undergraduate or graduate students' time to do research.  This usually involves writing computer programs
to analyze data, do statistics, write research papers which go into refereed journals (the "gold standard") for
contributing to the body of knowledge in the field etc.  Research experience is HOW students learn to solve
problems outside the classroom.  But, student labor is not free.  A large fraction of UL students need to work to pay their
tuition.  We've lost potential students interested in summer research projects to jobs at McDonald's because we couldn't pay them,
and McDonald's could. Some of our astronomy students who got paid from grants include undergraduates Eric Feil and Brian Leist,
and graduate students Karen Collins, Jeremy Hornbeck and Matt Nichols.  We could employ more if we had some
money from donations.  $4000 pays for a summer of research, $20000 pays a Master's graduate student's time and
tuition for a half year, and $25000 pays a PhD student for a year (since PhD students don't pay tuition except for
a candidacy fee each semester). 

     One new important program for UL astronomy is with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Corporation.
Private donations from Bill Gates and Charles Simonyi, among others, help to DOUBLE any donations that we get
for LSST research.

Paying students and faculty to go on observing runs on large telescopes. The best observational conditions are on
mountaintop observatories in the Southwest (Texas to California), or further afield in Hawaii, Chile, the Canary
Islands, South Africa, Australia etc.  These sites are darker and have sharper image quality, by far, compared to other
places in the US.  That's why the biggest telescopes in the continental US are in the Southwest, up to the equivalent of 11m in diameter.
UL students have gone observing to Kitt Peak Nat'l Observatory (near Tucson) and Apache Point Observatory (in NM).
The largest university-owned telescope in Kentucky, at the UL Moore Observatory, is 0.7m in diameter.
It does good work on a some dedicated projects on bright stars. To get grants to work on data for faint stars or galaxies, one needs
a bigger telescope.

Can we observe remotely? It is possible to observe from a small number of telescopes remotely.  However, it's like a chemist trying
to do a lab experiment via Internet controls, or better, to skipper a drone sailboat remotely.  It is far better to be on site at least a few times,
to see  how the weather changes from moment to moment, to know how the cameras and spectrographs are responding tonight, than
to depend on a telescope assistant or a fisheye lens to let you know what's going on.  Usually a student goes once or twice with a
professor to learn the ropes, before being able to go observing alone. Remote observing comes after that. It costs about $1000-1500 to go to Arizona or New Mexico,
and about $2000 to go to Cerro Tololo, the US national observatory in Chile for southern hemisphere observing.

Paying to go to conferences.  Conferences are where we learn what our colleagues are doing, and where we can present
our research to get feedback/comments/new ideas.  We can learn more in one lunch with
a colleague, and start a new research project or think up an idea for a grant, than with lots of e-mails, phone calls or video-chats.
Conferences can help us to recruit new students, and for students at UL to land places in good graduate schools or find good
post-doctoral positions.  A national conference like one sponsored by the American Astronomical Society costs $1000-1500,
and foreign ones can go up to $2000.

Paying for post-docs.  Post-doctoral researchers are the "bridge" between graduate students and university faculty or scientists
with permanent jobs in research institutes.  They are usually terrific to help faculty get research grants and publish papers, which is
the product of successful research projects.  Post-docs are usually paid using grants, but a number of departments have endowed
post-doctoral fellowships.  A year's salary and benefits for a post-doc is $50000-60000.    Endowing a post-doc position, which is
a HUGE help for a physics & astronomy department, costs about $1 million.  Examples are a Miller Fellowship at Berkeley or
a Clay Fellowship at Harvard.

Buying time on telescopes.  Before WWII, astronomy was generally done with private or university-owned telescopes.
In the 1950s, the US Government set up the NSF, which ended up creating
the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in the northern and southern hemispheres,
Kitt Peak Nat'l Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.
In the 1990s, enough universities got enough donations to buy their own big telescopes.  You can see a list of around a
couple of dozen large private telescopes and their university owners/renters here.  Since about 2005-2010, the NSF has
been closing down medium-sized (2-4m diameter) national telescopes to concentrate resources into a few large,
expensive ones (the 8m Gemini telescopes).  This is because there are a large number of medium-sized private telescopes.  The problem
is that astronomers at  universities which don't have medium-sized telescope access don't have the ability to do the "background work" to
compete for time on the national 8m telescopes or unique satellites like the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory,
Spitzer Space Infrared Telescope etc. 
     To buy 18 nights per year (a 5% share, enough for a few astronomers to run their research programs) on a 3.5m telescope such as
the WIYN (owned by U Wisconsin, Indiana U, Yale U and NOAO) costs about $750,000 to buy into the consortium, and a running cost of
$80,000-100,000/yr.  It's possible to "rent" the telescope for a similar time for an annual running cost surcharge of perhaps 30-40%. 
     The cost for 5% of a 10m telescope such as the Gran Telescopio Canarias and the smaller telescopes around it is about $7.5 million
buy-in and $225,000/year annual running costs.  U. Florida is a member.
     The cost for 5% of a 20m telescope such as the Giant Magellan Telescope is about $38 million buy-in, with an annual running cost of about
$500,000 - $1 million/year.  U Arizona, U Chicago, Harvard U, U Texas and Texas A&M are some of the members.