Observatories backing

April 11, 1997

MANY astronomers do not believe "it would be politically feasible" to transfer all the work of the two Royal Observatories to one site, but accepted that savings have to be made, the Royal Astronomical Society said this week.

Malcolm Longair, president of the society, revealed the results of a questionnaire, sent to more than 3,000 astronomers, at this week's National Astronomy Meeting in Southampton.

Professor Longair, of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, said the observatories were facing severe financial pressure because funding had not kept pace with inflation for several years. The introduction of the two Gemini telescopes over the next few years would tighten the squeeze.

The RAS said: "The clear answer was that we should not keep the telescopes operating in the present mode at all costs."

However, any economies did not necessarily include closing down one of the observatories - one is in Cambridge, the other in Edinburgh.

The report said that even though there is likely to be a reduction in support and therefore advantages in locating on one site, many respondents "did not believe that it would be politically feasible to transfer all the activities at one of the two Royal Observatories to the other".

Professor Longair added: "There is scope for both to be downsized to match what we can afford."

The questionnaire results will now be sent to the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council which runs the observatories.

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