geological terms tend to change slowly, unless there is a land slide. With
the UK joining ESO the focus of UK ground-based astronomy will change in
a dramatic way as well, strengthening its European focus. On December 5th
2001 PPARC Council took a number of important decisions related to the UK
joining ESO. These decisions will have a profound impact on various existing
facilities, including those of the ING. PPARC’s way forward reflects the
reality of the rapidly changing environment of ground-based astronomy, with
the deployment of several 8-m class telescopes and the adhesion of the United
Kingdom to the European Southern Observatory. Further reference to the Council’s
decision can be found in this PPARC press release http://www.pparc.ac.uk/NW/ESOstars.asp.
Impact of Budget Reductions
It has been apparent for some time that the annual operating budget for ING
would come under pressure, in particular as the UK has to free up funds to
contribute towards the annual cost of joining ESO. Over the past year, plans
have been developed on how ING could be operated within a reduced budget.
Central in these plans is the improved collaboration with the Instituto de
Astrofísica de Canarias. The ING Board has played a very active role
in securing an agreement of principles of how in the future PPARC, NWO and
the IAC could collaborate in the operation of the ING. The decision from
PPARC Council is in line with these plans.
The key elements of the changes that these plans entail are presented here.
Probably the most important change is presented by the fact that the Instituto
de Astrofísica de Canarias will become a full partner in ING as of
2002. An agreement was reached, with strong support from the ING Board and
the UK and NL funding agencies, on the terms under which the IAC would join
in the operating costs of ING. This agreement significantly alleviates the
impact of the budget reductions announced by PPARC and allows ING to remain
a strong and vibrant organisation that can deliver quality service to its
user community. The tight collaboration with the IAC is of strategic importance
as this institute fulfills a pivotal role in the development of the observatory
site, in particular with the construction of the 10-m GRANTECAN and its plans
to create a European collaboration for observing facilities in the Northern
hemisphere. Moreover, the IAC is developing a new observatory centre at sea
level on La Palma, in which the ING will participate. But nevertheless, the
future budget available to ING for the operation of the telescopes will reduce
by more than 30%, in spite of the additional contribution of the IAC. The
IAC’s contribution will commence in 2002, and the Netherlands will leave
its annual contribution largely unchanged. This large decrease in the operational
budget and the change of balance between the international partners implies
a number of important changes, that can be summarised as follows:
1. Balance of Observing Time
The balance of observing time will gradually change over the following years.
The agreed percentage breakdown of observing time will be as follows (see
CAT Spanish additional time
CAT Spanish time
CCI international time
Table 1. Percentage breakdown of observing time.
2. Service Observations
The existing scheme of service observations that are carried out by observatory
personnel will be discontinued on the JKT from the end of semester 02A and
on the INT from the end of semester 03A. On the WHT service observation
will remain available.
3. Use of the JKT and INT
The JKT will be taken out of normal service as of September 2003. Possibly
this telescope will continue as a special-purpose telescope with external
funding. But if no additional resources can be found the JKT will close.
It is the intention to review the longer term future of the INT before the
end of 2004. By that time various other telescopes will be carrying out imaging
surveys and the Liverpool telescope will be well established, making it timely
to review the scientific use of the INT. Until that time, operation of the
INT will have to be carried out at a lower cost. Cost saving measures envisaged
are to operate the INT with only the Wide Field Camera from some time in
2003 onwards, and at the same time fully withdraw telescope operator support
from that telescope.
4. Use of the WHT
The focus of support and development will shift fully towards the WHT in
order to keep that telescope as attractive as possible to the community.
Although scheduling flexibility and instrument changes may have to be more
strictly limited, the service delivered will be enhanced through the introduction
of queue observing mode for up to 30% of the time on the WHT. Primarily queue
observing will focus on adaptive optics observations.
5. A Common-User IR Imager and Spectrograph
As part of the agreement with the IAC, the LIRIS IR imager and spectrograph
that is currently being developed at the IAC will be made available to the
general user community for at least 3 years after commissioning and acceptance.
Commissioning of LIRIS is anticipated to take place at the beginning of 2003.
Given the popularity of ING’s IR imager, we expect that this new instrument
will attract much interest from the user community.
The changes mentioned above focus on the impact that the budget reductions
will have on the use of the telescopes. Not mentioned here are the complex
internal changes that will be implemented and cost saving measures in the
way ING operates. It is our intention to minimise the disruption to normal
day-to-day operation of the telescopes as much as possible, and ING remain
dedicated to deliver the best possible service to our user community.
Collaboration Between Observatories
In the European astronomical arena international collaborations are emerging
between national facilities. These collaborations have been promoted and
supported by the OPTICON European network, which combines astronomers from
many European countries and is funded through the EU (see http://www.astro-opticon.org). An
important driver for setting up collaborations between observatories is the
wish to make the best instruments available to the wider community of astronomers
for the advancements of our science, and to make the existing facilities
work more efficiently in the process. Duplication of instrumentation with
the consequential costs could be avoided, thus providing a better service
to the community at a lower overall cost.
A few specific collaborations between the ING telescopes and other telescopes
are being considered. One particular collaboration is to share observing
time between the WHT and the Italian Galileo telescope, TNG, on La Palma.
This collaboration centres on the use of the high-resolution spectrograph
on that telescope, as the UES echelle spectrograph on the WHT will not be
offered for some time.
Other collaborations currently under consideration are with the 3.5-m Calar-Alto
telescope, with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, and with the Nordic Optical
Telescope. Discussions with these facilities are still at an early stage.
In any case, for such collaborations to come into effect there must be a
clear advantage for our community of telescope users. The above mentioned
arrangement with the TNG is a good example, where without this arrangement
the opportunity for high-resolution spectroscopy would have been lost.
The Utrecht Echelle Spectrograph
The longer-term availability of a high-resolution spectroscopic facility
is under study. The Nasmyth focal station currently occupied by the Utrecht
Echelle Spectrograph will become a dedicated focus for adaptive optics instrumentations.
For that reason the UES will be taken away from the telescope, but not necessarily
be simply decommissioned. Apart from decommissioning there are currently
two options. One option would be to enhance the instrument with an image
slicer and fibre optics feed improving its spectral stability. The instrument
would then be placed in a stable and controlled environment. The second option
under study is the possibility to deploy UES on the 10-m GRANTECAN telescope,
also fed by fibres.
As part of the reestructuring plan,
both the Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (September 2003) [ JPEG | TIFF ] and the Utrecht
Echelle Spectrograph (July 2002) will be taken out of normal service.
[ JPEG | TIFF ]
Both options carry attractive possibilities, but first technical aspects
will have to be explored. Apart from the technical and astronomical prospects,
under the much tighter future operational budgetary regime aspects of operational
efficiency and stream lining will become ever more important aspects for