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