The University of Chicago announced today that it will cease all support of the Yerkes Observatory, home of the world’s largest refractive telescope, in October 2018.
The University of Chicago has announced plans to wind down its activities at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis., over the next six months and to formally cease on-site operations by Oct. 1, 2018.
The upcoming summer season will therefore be the final season of University activities at Yerkes. The University is announcing the plans well in advance in order to engage with Yerkes staff and nearby communities, including the village of Williams Bay, in considering long-term plans for the property.
The telescope is no longer useful for scientific research, but it is historically important, and as the press release admits, “has continued to make important contributions through its education and outreach programs.” And while I can understand their decision, they sure didn’t leave the staff at Yerkes much time to find new backers. When the National Science Foundation decided it was dropping support for its telescopes at Kitt Peak, it gave them literally several years to round up new support.