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RAS PN 08/08: RAS President welcomes reprieve for UK involvement in Gemini Observatory

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 April 2010 18:42
Published on Thursday, 14 February 2008 00:00
The President of the RAS, Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson, has welcomed the news that the stand-off between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the board of the Gemini Observatory has been replaced by constructive discussion.
ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 14 February 2008                 For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 08/08
 
Issued by:

Dr Robert Massey
Press Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
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London W1J 0BQ
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RAS website: www.ras.org.uk

RAS PRESIDENT WELCOMES REPRIEVE FOR UK INVOLVEMENT IN GEMINI OBSERVATORY

The President of the RAS, Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson, has welcomed the news that the stand-off between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the board of the Gemini Observatory has been replaced by constructive discussion. This follows a series of earlier decisions that looked set to end British involvement in the Observatory. The UK has been a partner in Gemini since its inception and to date has invested 35 million pounds in the project.

Gemini consists of two telescopes with 8-m mirrors, one sited in Chile (Gemini South) and one in Hawaii (Gemini North). These instruments are amongst the largest in the world and are able to see some of the faintest objects in the night sky. Gemini North is also the only giant telescope in the northern hemisphere where the UK is a partner - losing access to this instrument would greatly hinder the ability of UK scientists to study objects in the northern part of the sky.

Professor Rowan-Robinson commented on the discussions, “We must ensure that the outcome will give UK astronomers continued access to Gemini North. Although it can be argued that UK astronomers have access to excellent 8-m optical telescopes in the south through its membership of the European Southern Observatory, the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii is crucial for UK astronomers to remain in the front rank of international astronomy.  One example is that the UK is active in a variety of space missions at far infrared, submillimetre and X-ray wavelengths.

‘These space observatories find exciting new objects over the whole sky that need to be followed up at optical wavelengths. Access to Gemini North will also be important for following up submillimetre sources found in the planned SCUBA2 surveys, and infrared sources found in the UKIDSS surveys.

‘The UK has invested about 35 million pounds in the capital phase of the Gemini Observatories, in which we have a 23% stake.  To pull out precipitately, as seemed to be happening, would have written this off to make a saving of 4 million pounds a year, at the expense of inflicting great damage to the UK's international reputation.”

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Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson
President, Royal Astronomical Society

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr Robert Massey, RAS (details above)


NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.