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15 October 2006 – Status of UKIRT Post-Earthquake

15 October 2006 – Status of UKIRT Post-Earthquake

UPDATE – 27-Oct-2006 HST

Confirmation that UKIRT is now operating well in Wide Field mode, no further adjustments having been necessary.

UPDATE – 24-Oct-2006 HST

UKIRT operated successfully on the final night of its Cassegrain block, which finished on Sunday 22-Oct-2006. It is now shutdown for installation of the Wide-field camera WFCAM, which will occupy the telescope for the coming 6 months. There are no apparent ongoing problems relating to the earthquake and, pending pointing and wavefront tests with WFCAM, we hope that this will be the final update on this page. Many thanks to all those who have enquired and checked in here.

UPDATE – 18-Oct-2006 HST

Weather has held off for the start of the night and a pointing test has been completed. A simple analysis of the results suggests that the telescope has (at least) rotated around an approximately vertical axis by about one arcminute, or approximately 2mm at each column. All three Cassegrain instruments are now operable.

UPDATE  –  17-Oct-206 HST

The weather is still not allowing us to open and check pointing. CGS4 and UFTI are now both operational and UIST is approaching its operating temperature. A small aftershock of 4th magnitude was felt this morning but the telescope shear pins remained intact. Estimates of the magnitude of the Sunday earthquakes are creeping upwards – the main quake is now 6.7 and the first aftershock was 6.0.

UPDATE  –  16-Oct-2006 HST

Two significant earthquakes registering 6.6 and 5.8 struck the islands between 0700-0730hrs on Sunday 15 October. There were a number of aftershocks. The epicenter was a few miles off the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii (west of Kailua-Kona for those with knowledge of the region).

Hilo Office

The Hilo office is functioning normally. It was inspected on Sunday and there is no apparent structural damage. 


An observing run at UKIRT had ended an hour or so before the quake and the observers were back at Hale Pohaku. Due to having worked split night shifts, they were able to return to the telescope to conduct some initial visual inspections but there was no power at the summit between the time of the quake and about 1430hrs (some 7 hrs in total) so further inspections were not possible. 

Engineering inspections took place today and the mechanical systems have been tested with no apparent faults or damage.  The computer systems are also up and running. Of the three instruments, one (CGS4) is working, the other two are cooling down steadily and UFTI should be available by second half of tonight. Provisionally, UKIRT is operational pending the results of on-sky pointing and other tests which will be done as soon as the weather permits.


JCMT was being operated remotely on Sat/Sun and the TSS was at Hale Pohaku when the quake struck. He was unable to go back to the summit (without exceeding the 14 hour limit) so the visual checks were conducted by the UKIRT observers. In similar circumstance to UKIRT (no power etc), it was decided that further inspection would take place on Monday 16 October.

That inspection work has now completed and there appear to be no mechanical damage or faults.  The computers are up and running and, weather permitting (there is now a storm coming in!), the telescope will be opened and exercised tonight. Closed-dome tests so far indicate that the systems are all functional.

JAC Staff

There have been no reports of any injuries to staff or serious loss or damage to homes or property.  

16 October 2006 – Special Call for UKIRT Circular Polarimetry Service Proposals

16 October 2006 – Special Call for UKIRT Circular Polarimetry Service Proposals

Observing dates: 16-17 Oct 2006

The first halves of Oct-16 and Oct-17 are scheduled for Service observations on UKIRT.  Due to exceptional scheduling circumstances, circular polarimetry observing mode using the IRPOL2 polarimetry module will also be available for these half-nights only, and Service program applications are invited for this mode. All circular polarimetry Service observations must be undertaken on a collaborative basis with the University of Hertfordshire (who have supplied the circular polarimetry hardware).  Potential circular polarimetry project PIs should therefore contact Professor James Hough (jhh ‘at’ in advance of putting in any proposal. Both imaging and spectroscopic circular polarimetry should be available, using UIST and UFTI.

The usual Service observing modes will also be supported on these two half nights, but priority will be given to circular polarimetry proposals due to the limited availability of this mode.

UKIRT Service programmes must require not more than three hours of actual time (including time on targets, standard observations and any other overheads). Where possible, applications should be submitted at least two weeks before the relevant service night, to allow sufficient time for referee assessment. 

For full information on the UKIRT service programme, including proposal submission procedures, please see: – Dead link needs updating.

The UKIRT Service Programme Manager is Mark G. Rawlings 
(ukirtserv ‘at’

17 July 2006 – UKIRT Strategic Review 2005

17 July 2006 – UKIRT Strategic Review 2005

In 2005, UKIRT was the subject of an international review of the telescope’s current operations and strategic future. The review panel, chaired by Prof. R S Ellis, produced a substantial and positive final report and recommendations. This report and the response of the UKIRT Board are posted below.

ReportReview Panel Report
ResponseResponse from the UKIRT Board

One of the chief recommendations of the panel was that UKIRT should move to carry out more “campaign” observing programs. A call for proposals was issued in the spring of 2006, as detailed here.

10 July 2006 – Call for Campaign Observing Programmes

10 July 2006 – Call for Campaign Observing Programmes

UPDATE  –  10-Jul-2006

Following the proposal call detailed below, twenty Letters of Intent were received by the deadline of 3-Jul-2006. PIs will be contacted shortly with acknowledgement.

Note from the UKIRT Board, April 2006

One outcome of the recent review of UKIRT by an international panel chaired by Prof. R. Ellis was the recommendation that proposals be invited for ambitious observing campaigns to address fundamental high impact science questions.  In this context, the UKIRT Board invites proposals for substantial and ambitious programmes. Proposed programs could have total durations of 3 – 5 years and require tens to hundreds of nights.

This invitation is extended to all parts of the UK community, and is intended to include any proposals which are well beyond the scope of a PATT allocation.

Such a programme could make use of existing UKIRT facilities (WFCAM, CGS4, UIST, UFTI, IRPOL), or may require the development of new instrumentation.

UKIRT has already moved to a mode of operation where a substantial amount of time is devoted to large campaigns.  The first examples of these are the five surveys being undertaken by the UKIDSS consortium (  The UKIDSS end-of-two-year review will be included in the review process which follows this call.

The criteria against which proposals will be judged include:

  • scientific impact
  • management strategy and organisation
  • legacy potential

Letters of intent should be sent by 3 July 2006, by email, as pdf files, to Dr Deborah Telfer  Submission of full proposals will be by 3 November 2006, also to Dr Telfer.

The letters of intent should be short (not more than two paragraphs) and outline the basic idea. These letters will be used by the UKIRT Board to assess the level of interest in the community in different areas of science and instrumentation and to guide the Board in identifying referees for the full proposals.

The full proposals should comprise:

  • one page for title, abstract and team
  • up to nine pages of scientific justification, including figures and references, and technical justification
  • one page to describe management and resourcing plans, including anticipated observing support
  • one page to describe and justify the legacy potential of the campaign
  • proposals which require new instrumentation should include up to six additional pages describing the instrument concept

We are particularly interested in proposals for instruments which give UKIRT a unique measurement capability.

Peer review of the proposals will be undertaken by expert referees who may be outside the UK.  These referees will assess the scientific goals, feasibility, legacy potential and organisational plans.

31 March 2005 – WFCAM Service Projects

31 March 2005 – WFCAM Service Projects

WFCAM has been added to the service system database and we are now formally accepting WFCAM service proposals. the standard time limit of three hours will apply. 

Data resulting from WFCAM service observing must be retrieved in reduced form from the WFCAM science archive. Raw data will not be distributed. 

Observing modes will be restricted to those applicable to normal observing under UKIDSS and PATT aegis; these are quite extensive and should cover most requirements.

The deadline for applications for the second-half service nights scheduled on April 19th and 20th is April 5th.  Suitable RAs would be 10h30m to 22h00m, and Dec, as usual for UKIRT, -40 to +60 degrees. 

31 October 2014 – UKIRT Transferred to the University of Hawaii

31 October 2014 – UKIRT Transferred to the University of Hawaii

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At midnight on 31st October 2014, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) will be legally transferred from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council to the University of Hawai`i (UH).

This transfer of ownership is the culmination of a lengthy process that began with STFC’s decision in May 2012 to cease supporting the telescope. In October 2012 I issued a global Announcement of Opportunity to solicit interest in taking over the observatory, in response to which 13 Expressions of Interest were received. Two full proposals were eventually submitted, of which one was finally selected. In parallel with this, a legal framework for the transaction was developed in cooperation with UH, from whom we hold a sub-lease for the UKIRT site on Maunakea.

UKIRT will in future be operated as a UH-owned telescope by a new partnership comprising the University of Arizona (UA) and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. It has taken several months to get agreement of these four organisations to the 9 legal agreements required for this transaction, but this alignment has finally been achieved.

UKIRT has been an outstanding success story for UK astronomy for 35 years. This transfer represents the end of the UK’s ownership of UKIRT, but not the end of the UK’s participation: discussions are underway towards an ongoing scientific collaboration between the UK community and astronomers at UA and UH.

Professor Gary Davis
Director, JAC
31st October 2014

29 July 2013 – UKIRT Operations Extended to 31 Dec 2013

29 July 2013 – UKIRT Operations Extended to 31 Dec 2013

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In May 2012, following a review process, STFC announced that it would cease supporting the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on 30 September 2013.

In October 2012, the Director UKIRT issued a global Announcement of Opportunity, soliciting for a new entity or partnership to take over the operation of UKIRT. This strategy has proved very successful: 13 Expressions of Interest were received, and after further discussions, two groups are currently developing full proposals.

In parallel with these developments, the University of Hawaii (UH) has agreed to take over the legal ownership of UKIRT and responsibility for the site on Mauna Kea when STFC-funded operations cease. This is a significant and very welcome initiative from our UH colleagues. The existing sub-lease for the UKIRT site will be terminated and UH expects to set up a scientific partnership with one of the two proposing parties to operate UKIRT.

In view of the time required to terminate the sub-lease and set up a partnership agreement with a new operating entity, STFC will extend UKIRT operations to 31 December 2013. This extension will enable both a positive outcome for UKIRT and an additional three months of science observing for the UK community. The science programme for this incremental period will be determined by the UKIRT Board.

18 December 2012 – Update on UKIRT Ownership

18 December 2012 – Update on UKIRT Ownership

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On 2nd October, I issued an Announcement of Opportunity for entities interested in participating in UKIRT beyond 30th September 2013. The Announcement solicited Expressions of Interest, with a deadline of 30th November 2012.

I am pleased to report that twelve Expressions of Interest were received, which is a remarkable outcome for an unprecedented process. We are now working through them, and as a priority will be engaging directly with those who have offered to take over the ownership of the observatory.

The objective is to reach clarity by 31st March 2013 on whether we have a viable route for the transfer of UKIRT to a new owner. Further details will be posted here as and when they become available.

Professor Gary Davis
Director JAC
14th December 2012

01 October 2012 – Announcement of Opportunity: The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope

01 October 2012 – Announcement of Opportunity: The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope

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The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) is one of the world’s leading astronomical observatories. For more than three decades it has served the UK and international communities with unique and forefront capabilities that have led to remarkable discoveries, supporting the advance of astronomical science. In addition, UKIRT pioneered many operational innovations, including flexible scheduling and the provision of data reduction pipelines. It is an extremely efficient operation and is currently experiencing a peak in productivity, based largely on the very successful UKIDSS programme which has extended infrared survey imaging to unprecedented depth and area.

Despite these successes, the UK’s funding agency for astronomy, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), can no longer support UKIRT beyond 30th September 2013. This decision follows a review process and reflects the evolution of the UK’s suite of observational capabilities in a tightly-constrained financial environment. The observatory, its instrumentation and its support equipment are therefore being offered to the global astronomical community through this Announcement of Opportunity.

We encourage anyone who is interested in participating in UKIRT beyond 1stOctober 2013 to review the linked prospectus and consider submitting an Expression of Interest. There are no preconceptions or constraints: we welcome parties wishing to take over the entire observatory, parties interested in being minor partners, and any other permutation. We are willing to consider any and all possibilities. Details of the facilities being made available and the process for registering your interest are all described in the prospectus.

This is the first time that a productive, world-leading observatory in the 4-m class has been offered to the global community. We invite you to consider this unprecedented opportunity.