Position Statement

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (the 4.2-m William Herschel 
Telescope, WHT, and 2.5-m Isaac Newton Telescope, INT) continues 
to serve the scientific community every night of the year, 
despite a dramatic reduction in funding. The ING telescopes 
continue to be in high demand though the European astronomical 
community has access to a powerful arsenal of very large telescopes. 
But clearly the changing environment does not leave the observatory 
unaffected. This brief paper summarizes ING's position and its view 
of how it expects to continue to deliver a high-quality service to 
the astronomical community from one of the best observing sites in 
the world.

ING currently receives its funding from the UK Particle Physics and 
Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Netherlands Organization 
for Scientific Research (NWO), and the Spanish Instituto de 
Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC). PPARC has indicated its intention to 
significantly reduce funding from 2009 onwards. To safeguard the 
scientific future of the ING a new balance of financial 
contributions between the partners in ING is being discussed, while 
new interested parties are on the horizon. The funding agencies 
have expressed their commitment to work towards a continuing healthy 
future for the observatory.

In future years ING's telescopes should be seen in a wider, European 
context. Coordination of national facilities will be a central theme 
for European astronomy in years to come. ING is playing an active 
role in this, and is seeking to build bridges to other telescope 
groups at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory. Finding common 
areas of interest and avoiding duplication will allow telescopes to 
work more cost effectively while still retaining the variety of 
instrument capability that the community demands.

The future scientific impact of the telescopes depends critically on 
the available instrumentation. Current instrumentation on the WHT 
caters well for a wide range of scientific projects. University-built, 
visiting instruments are expected to remain of scientific importance 
and are a uniquely attractive feature of the WHT. Ongoing instrument 
development activities focus on the completion of the laser guide 
star (LGS) upgrade to the adaptive optics (AO) system. This particular 
development activity is technically demanding, but the potential 
scientific reward is great: high-resolution IR imaging and optical 
integral-field spectroscopy over nearly the whole sky.

Building on ING's experience and infrastructure in the field of 
adaptive optics and laser guide stars, and in collaboration with a 
large number of European institutes, ING is seeking European funding 
for the WHT to become an AO/LGS-technology test bed facility for 
future extremely large telescopes.

Looking towards the future, there are exciting new possibilities on 
the horizon. ING is negotiating the deployment of an extremely stable 
high-resolution spectrograph on the WHT. The prime objective of this 
instrument is in the hot-topic area of exo-planet searches, but the 
instrument will be available for other uses as well. This would 
satisfy a strong interest in our user community in high-resolution 
spectroscopy. Furthermore, to exploit the best observing conditions, 
expansion of service and queue-scheduled observing is anticipated, 
as far as future budget constraints will allow.

A number of smaller-scale but scientifically rewarding instrument 
developments are also in-hand. These include upgrades of CCDs, 
development of high-speed spectroscopic CCD modes, and the 
construction of an auxiliary port imaging camera, ACAM, that will 
allow high-quality imaging over a much wider field of view than 
currently available at the Cassegrain focus of the WHT. As ACAM will 
be virtually always available it will be a very useful tool for fast 
follow-up of transient sources or events, an activity that currently 
delivers an important science return.

Looking further ahead, ING plans to develop a new common-user 
instrument for the WHT that would fulfill the science requirements 
for future years. Also a new scientific role for the INT needs to 
be defined. We invite members of the community who are interested 
in working with us on the scientific direction and definition of a 
new instruments to contact us.

The Isaac Newton Group of telescopes has shown in past years its 
resilience and ability to adapt to new challenges. In coming years 
we will continue to strive to give the best possible service to the 

31 January 2007

Rene Rutten
Director, ING

Dr Rene G.M. Rutten, Director, 
Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes
Apartado de Correos 321
E-38700 Santa Cruz de la Palma
Tel office:       +34 922 425421
Tel switchboard:  +34 922 425410
Fax central:      +34 922 425401

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