Observatory decision is nigh

December 12, 1997

THE FUTURE of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, in limbo since July when the government gave the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council permission to move all astronomy technical support to Edinburgh, is expected to be finally decided this week.

The PPARC council will consider whether to back a management proposal for the observatory in Cambridge to go it alone as a company limited by guarantee, called RGO clg, or to continue with its closure which will result in the loss of up to 100 jobs.

It is believed the council will also consider interest expressed by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, the site of the original RGO built in 1675, which is thought to be keen to take the RGO back.

According to the proposal submitted to PPARC by observatory staff, RGO clg would employ up to 60 people making telescopes for the foreign market, providing data services and an education and public understanding of science role.

The PPARC council will consider three reports examining the financial robustness of the plan and the effect of the proposed RGO clg on other PPARC activities. Two of the reports have been prepared by senior astronomers, the third independently by consultants Deloitte and Touche.

Ken Pounds, PPARC chief executive, said he was keen for council to make a decision to end the uncertainty. He said: "We have been trying very hard to give RGO clg a fair hearing. I genuinely believe the decision could go either way."

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