29 July 2013 – UKIRT Operations Extended to 31 Dec 2013
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.