A proposal to close the Royal Observatory's Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope in the Canary Islands would save little money but would have a substantial scientific impact, warns Steve Unger, director of the Isaac Newton Group (ING) of telescopes on La Palma, Spain. In a letter to this month's Astronomy and Geophysics, he says that "an ever-deepening funding crisis is placing the future of ING at risk".
He says ING has been particularly hard hit by cuts, with a proposed 35 per cent budget reduction since 1995. This, he fears, may force the closure of the larger telescopes on La Palma, as well as the Jacobus Kapteyn. The proposals to cut the Jacobus Kapteyn telescope are "largely symbolic".
He said: "It would be possible to operate the telescope in a stripped- down operational mode for very much less than the cost of demolishing it. It is becoming increasingly urgent that PPARC establish a balanced, effective and affordable programme for UK ground-based astronomy."