Friday, October 12, 2012

World-Class Telescope For Sale

The impending closure of the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope might be averted if the observatory’s owners can find a buyer.

As sun sets on Mauna Kea, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope opens for a night of observing. On September 30, 2013, UKIRT will lose U.K. government funding and close down — unless the observatory finds new ownership.
Joint Astronomy Centre

Got $1.24 million in your pocket? That’s how much it’ll cost per year to operate a productive, world-class observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. As announced late last month, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) is for sale — a package deal that includes the 12.5-foot (3.8-meter) reflector, its enclosure, and all its instrumentation and support equipment.

This unusual event came about thanks to U.K.’s astronomy funding crisis. In May, the country’s Science and Technology Facilities Council decided to stop supporting two telescopes atop Mauna Kea. The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), which observes submillimeter wavelengths with a 15-meter primary mirror, is scheduled to close in 2014; UKIRT is to be shuttered a year earlier, in September 2013. The two closures make room in the budget for U.K.’s participation in up-and-coming megaprojects, including the ALMA radio array, the Square Kilometer Array, and the 39-meter European Extremely Large Telescope.

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Source: Sky and Telescope Magazine.


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