Tag Archives: Kitt Peak

The status of telescopes the NSF is getting rid of

Back in 2012 the National Science Foundation (NSF) proposed that it cease funding a slew of older, smaller telescopes in order to use that money to fund the construction and operation of newer more advanced facilities. This article, focused on the fate of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, provides a nice table that shows the status of these telescopes.

The options were either to find new funding, be mothballed, or even demolished. It appears that most of the telescopes in question have found new funding and will remain in use in some manner. The one telescope that has apparently failed to obtain any additional funding from others is the McMath–Pierce Solar Telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona, which when built in 1962 was the world’s largest solar telescope, an honor for which it is still tied.

In 2015 I had written an article for Sky & Telescope about how these budget cuts were effecting the telescopes on Kitt Peak. At that time the people in charge of McMath-Pierce were hunting for new support but were coming up short. Almost two years later it appears that their hunt has been a failure, and the telescope will likely be shut down, and possibly demolished.

It will be a sad thing if McMath-Pierce is lost, but I am not arguing to save it. If its observational capabilities were truly valuable and needed by the scientific community than someone would have come forward to finance it. That no one has suggests that the money really can be spent more usefully in other ways.

On the road

On Thursday and Friday I will likely not be able to do much posting, as I am heading up to Kitt Peak to watch an amateur astronomer do overnight observations using the 2.1 meter telescope on the mountain. I will also be taking a tour of the numerous facilities on the mountain top. All of this is in connection with an article I am writing for Sky & Telescope.

I am unsure if I will have internet service there. If I do, I will continue to post. Otherwise I will return Friday afternoon and pick up from there.

Update, Friday mid-day: I am back. Though I had access to the internet, I was too busy with other business to post. A lot of news stories since yesterday, so there will be a lot of posts in the next few hours.