The President of the RAS, Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson, has welcomed the news that the stand-off between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Gemini [telescope] Board has been replaced by constructive discussion.
Commenting on Gemini's Executive Agency and the STFC agreement on the terms for discussion of possible continued UK involvement in Gemini, he added...
"We must ensure that the outcome will give UK astronomers continued access to Gemini North. Although it can be argued that UK astronomers have access to excellent 8-m optical telescopes in the south through its membership of the European Southern Observatory, the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii is crucial for UK astronomers to remain in the front rank of international astronomy. One example is that the UK is active in a variety of space missions at far infrared, submillimetre and X-ray wavelengths.
These space observatories find exciting new objects over the whole sky that need to be followed up at optical wavelengths. Access to Gemini North will also be important for following up submillimtre sources found in the planned SCUBA2 surveys, and infrared sources found in the UKIDSS surveys.
The UK has invested about 35 million pounds in the capital phase of the Gemini observatories, in which we have a 23% stake. To pull out precipitately, as seemed to be happening, would have written this off to make a saving of 4 million pounds a year, at the expense of inflicting great damage to the UK's international reputation."