UKIRT Switching to WF Mode
to Wide Field Mode
The following note was issued by the Director, JAC, on
It can be obtained in PDF format here.
The final outcome of STFC’s
Programmatic Review was announced in July, and its implications for
UKIRT can be seen here.
The announcement described three scenarios for the future operation
of UKIRT, and specified that a decision would be made in December.
Following a lengthy discussion with
UKIRT Board, which met at the JAC on 8/9 December, option (c) was
selected: UKIRT will move to wide-field survey mode from February
2009 and the UKIDSS survey programme will be completed as
expeditiously as possible under STFC funding.
This is a profound change of
and the decision was taken only with great reluctance, given that
UKIRT has served the UK astronomical community exceptionally well as
a general-purpose observatory for almost 30 years. Adoption of this
mode will nevertheless enable us to focus our resources on UKIRT’s
highest-priority science programme. Accordingly, the three Cassegrain
instruments (CGS4, UFTI and UIST) will be removed from service at the
end of the current block (currently scheduled for the last week of
January). They will not, however, be retired: it is my intention to
keep them in storage for a period for potential reinstatement should
Our science mission is now to
the UKIDSS programme as quickly as possible, and to optimise the
science programme of the telescope within that constraint. Modelling
indicates that completing UKIDSS will take us until the middle of
2012, and that there will be a considerable amount of ‘empty-queue’
time, increasing in the later years, as UKIDSS fields are
increasingly completed. The Board has therefore decided to convene a
review of UKIDSS and the four approved campaign programmes in the
autumn of 2009.
Given the continued existence of
non-UKIDSS time, it is possible that we will continue to support PATT
and service programmes under this operational mode; a further
announcement on this point will be made in early February, following
an operational re-planning exercise.
Finally, I can report to the
that the UKIRT Board strongly endorsed the concept of a new
instrument for UKIRT. Dr Hugh Jones (Herts) will be submitting a
Statement of Interest to STFC for an ultra-stable, high-resolution
echelle spectrometer called UKIRT Planet Finder (UPF). Although the
primary science goal is to search for Earth-mass planets around
nearby M dwarfs by extending the radial velocity technique to the
infrared, the proposed instrument (based heavily on the cancelled
PRVS instrument for Gemini) has a wide range of other astronomical
applications. Hugh will be canvassing the UK community for support
during January and I encourage all potential users of such an
instrument to get in touch with him.
Professor Gary Davis