Farewell UKIRT

May 31, 2012

A short but sad post. After yet another review, STFC has finally bitten the bullet and decided to close both JCMT (at the end of 2014) and UKIRT (in September 2013). Not a big surprise, but very very sad. La Palma is extended to 2015 with hope of extended negotiations with partners. The STFC announcement is here. I understand there will be an RAS reaction today.

The timing twists the knife. Today we start the fourth Science from UKIDSS workshop, and UKIRT just announced record-breaking productivity.The last UKIDSS observing was about a week or so back. For the final year, UKIRT will carry out a large area J-band survey, the first section of the hoped-for UKIRT Hemisphere survey. The final UKIDSS data release won’t be too long now, but I am expecting it will produce science for years to come – 338 UKIDSS related publications so far, and the rate is still speeding up.

Of course, WFCAM is just the last in a long line of stunning UKIRT instruments. Catch me in the pub and you will get my UKT9, CGS4, and IRCAM stories.

My grateful thanks to dozens of UKIRT and JCMT over the last thirty years, but especially to the gang who are still there now making my science possible – Gary, Tom, Watson, Jack, Thor et al.

I have this feeling that our workshop dinner tonight may be even more sozzled than we expected.

We are burning

May 26, 2012

Somebody “liked” my latest post today that I had never heard of called Hovercraftdoggy. I did a curious click through the way you do, and it turns out to be an absolutely wonderful photo-blog, so I liked them back. (Warm glows all round). Seriously though, check it out. The latest is We are burning and possibly my favourite is Up Side Down. Half of them make you laugh and half of them are just beautiful and half of them do both.

SKA final for definite actually for real type decision

May 25, 2012

So the news is out : the SKA site decision has finally been made. It was on Beeb TV , with Pallab Ghosh meandering around Jodders, triffic fun. The official SKA announcement is here and the South African Minister’s statement is here. Wommers emitted a tweet announcing that he needed a beer, so it must have been hard work in the closing stages.

They have gone for a dual-site solution. Some have suggested that this a political compromise, which could be seen as weak or as eminently sensible, depending on your point of view. Others have worried that a dual site solution will increase cost and complexity. Yet others (eg Pallab Ghosh in a tweet) have suggested that basically the Australians have been thrown a bone, with most of the antennae being located in SA.

I think these are all wrong. Whatever the actual reasoning was behind the decision, the result is that the project will build two complementary telescopes, building on the technology leads already taken by the two hosts. South Africa will build a long-baseline high resolution single pixel type array, aiming at small deep fields. Most of the cosmologists willl love this. Oz will build a lower resolution wide field array, with beam forming and focal plane arrays, aimed at the maximum possible mapping speed for large areas. Well Jeez, that sounds like a good plan. The antennae ? Well, they are all coming from China anyway. (They are building their own low frequency array by the way…)

The only danger is that this arrangement will devolve into two distinct projects, or that one collapses while the other gets the money. But as long as the partners are determined to stick together…

So. Anyhoo. From the SCIENCE point of view, this looks to me like a GOOD PLAN.

All systems JUICE

May 2, 2012

So the SPC has done its thing. Vast petitions and stern letters nothwithstanding, they have chosen JUICE and its all systems go for launch in 2022. Jupiter here we come. The official announcement is here. There’s some coverage already at the Beeb, and at Skymania. Always quick off the mark that Suthers. Andrew Coates and Michelle Dougherty do a splendid job on the embedded video at the Beeb article and wax lyrical about Life Under The Ice. Who wouldn’t want to check that out ?

There is also an article at Physics World including quotes from yours truly. You will note I have been nice about everybody. Except NASA of course.

So thats it for now. X-rated astronomers and gravy fans have a year to gird their loins. Who wants to open a book ?