Two Mauna Kea telescopes face funding cuts

Courtesy: University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy
Courtesy: University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy

By Howard Dicus

HONOLULU and HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - As governments look for ways to reduce spending, two observatories on Mauna Kea face possible budget cuts from two countries that may withdraw their financial support altogether.

The management of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope has been notified that the Netherlands will end its 20 percent support in the 2013 budget cycle, leaving Britain and Canada to find a new partner, increase their own support, or cut the observatory's budget.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald of Hilo reported that the management of the Gemini observatories - one on Mauna Kea, one in the Chilean Andes - has been looking at a handful of possible job cuts after learning that Britain might withdraw its 23 percent financial support. One job has already been eliminating, with its functions moving to the mainland, after the person doing the job resigned for a post in the private sector in Hilo.

Astronomical research worldwide is under budgetary pressure as governments look for spending cuts after years of tax revenues reduced by the sluggish global economy.

There are 13 observatories on Mauna Kea, most of which still have secure funding. The Keck double observatory has mainly U.S. financial support while the Subaru telescope is operated by the government of Japan. The University of Hawaii operates a training telescope on the summit in addition to providing support services to all the observatories.

More than 2,000 people have astronomy-related jobs in Hawaii County. Most work in Hilo or Waimea-Kamuela but dozens actually work at the summit.

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