STFC have just released their plan based on currently available funding. It doesn’t make pretty reading so let’s start with the good news.
1. Our membership of ESO, which provides for access to the VLT, VISTA and, in the future, ALMA.
2. Long term planning for the next generation of telescopes, an Extremely Large (optical) Telescope and the Square Kilometer Radio array.
3. The JCMT. I’m surprised at this, and very, very happy.
4. Exomars, the European Mars lander, although participation in future missions is to be reviewed. We will be working with NASA directly on a joint program of robotic exploration of the Moon.
Under threat or being reviewed
1. As reported on this blog earlier this morning, UKIRT.
2. MERLIN, the radio network based on Jodrell Bank which is about to complete an expensive upgrade.
3. The Liverpool Telescope.
4. UK participation in Dark Energy Survey.
5. We’re remaining members of ESA (no-one ever thought otherwise) but the support offered post-launch is going to be cut by 30%. This means fewer scientists to actually reap the benefits of our participation.
6. Anything on the border of astronomy and particle physics, including the Boulby Mine dark matter experiments, CLOVER (the CMB experiment), and the detection of gravitational waves.
1. We already knew about Gemini.
Update As Andrew notes, the plan includes the aim of retaining some access to Gemini North, which appears to be a change from the previous announcement.
2. Confirmed rundown of our commitment to the telescopes on La Palma, primarily the Issac Newton group of telescopes. That’s more northern hemisphere telescopes gone; have we decided we’re only going to look at half the sky?
3. Any ground based studies of the interaction between the Sun and the Earth’s atmosphere
4. High-energy gamma-ray astronomy.
Comments? For purely personal reasons I’m really pleased the JCMT survives. As for the rest, I think a lot will depend on which way the reviewed items swing; UKIRT and MERLIN, among others, have just had expensive new instruments/upgrades and it seems crazy to abandon them now. The post-launch support for ESA is troubling, as this suggests we might be moving to a situation where we build but don’t get the best out of space probes.
Update : According to Stuart (who also has a transcript of the Today interviews), UKIRT, the LT and MERLIN were up for review anyway.