UK astronomy under threat

Well this story is nearly a week old and I’ve been busy working so I haven’t had chance to blog about it; but I think it’s too important not to mention something about it here. It’s the news of a very worrying announcement made by the Science & Technology Facilities Council.

In order to save money the STFC plans to withdraw the UK from the Gemini Observatory leaving UK astronomers without access to one of (if not the) best optical observatories in the Northern Hemisphere.
The UK has already contributed £23 million to the Gemini project, with a 23% share in the project since 1992. This surprising development becomes even more concerning when we consider this quote from the RAS news release:”The decision to withdraw from the project appears to have been made without any consultation with the astronomical community.”

Chris Lintott has an interesting post about the developments on his blog as does Stuart at Astronomy Blog. According to ‘The e-Astronomer’ (Prof. Andy Lawrence) this is just the beginning of worse things to come after budget cuts by the UK government. Let’s hope the STFC reconsiders this decision and as Stuart and Andy say, in the meantime, you can write to your local MP!

ESO Catch a Star

The European Southern Observatory is running an international competition for students (in primary or secondary education) called ‘Catch a Star’. Entrants can either submit reports or artwork on an astronomical topic of their choice.

The deadline is Friday 29th February 2008. Prizes include T-shirts, DVDs, posters as well as (for the top prizes) trips to various worldwide observatories including ESO’s Paranal site in Chile!

For more information and the full rules, details and requirements visit the ESO ‘Catch A Star’ site here.

South West Astronomy Fair

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable morning visiting the South West Astronomy Fair at the Norman Lockyer Observatory in Sidmouth Devon. As well as a variety of trade stands selling anything from space-art, meteorites, telescopes and astronomy books there was an excellent selection of talks from the likes of notable astronomers Nik Szymanek, Dr. Robin Catchpole and Prof. Don Kurtz. On top of this the observatory, where Lockyer carried out his famous work, was open for all to have a look around. Planetarium shows ran throughout the day. The observatory society are hoping to organize another fair next year and I thoroughly recommend you to pop along when they do,  as it was a great day out.