astro tales

some interesting astro happening over the last few days

The Next 40 Years of Exoplanets workshop took place at MIT. Website has archive of meeting.

Some fireworks there, Nature blogs has a take on it

NASAwatch discusses contradictory rumours of layoffs at JWST contractor
Two things to take away from that: yes, the aerospace contractors must be doing contingency planning for RIFs because of the impending budget doom in the 2012 budget; and the NASA comments talk in terms of 2013…
JWST launch date is clearly slipping, main question is whether the rate can be less than a year-per-year or not.
The fix is known, cash, lots of it, and fast. is up and running.
Astrobiology group blog, going well so far, current discussion is on the paper on arsenic based metabolism in Science – a co-author of the paper is on the blog.

Most worrying: my sources from the Great White North report much concern at CASCA.

In particular – they are worried about JWST slippage;
and, the Canadians are seriously considering giving up on TMT (one of the US Thirty Meter Telescope projects, the Caltech/UC one).
The issue is NSF partnership in TMT, which is impossible on a finite time scale under the current budget profile. Nations consider such things national policy issues, and need commitments from the corresponding national science foundations, or equivalent, so without NSF in, other nations find it very hard to partner with TMT.

So, Canada may cast its eyes across the pond to the E-ELT – the European Extremely Large Telescope, under ESO.
The Europeans are the turtles in this race, and the US hare is all over the place.
Slow linear progress will overtake rapid random walks eventually, and eventually is going to be soon the way things are going.
Real soon.

So… if Canada ends up an E-ELT partner, this begs the question of what they need Gemini for (the US pair of 8m national facility telescopes), as they’d get VLT access with an ESO buyin.
Canada could, as I understand it, exit the Gemini partnership in 2016 without penalty.

This is getting to be a bit of a pattern recently: inexorable and long term European projects overtake flailing US projects and leave them in the dust.

You know what the fix is…

There were also a bunch of interesting papers out recently, that I keep meaning to natter about.
Last round of proposals trashed my web browser and all the carefully saved tabs…
who knew modern U*ix kernels were so crappy at paging…
but, I’ll think of some of them and get to it, real soon now, need to do some science blogging.

Exoplanets and stellar stuff mostly.
For now.


  1. #1 David
    June 2, 2011

    Hi Steinn,

    When the UK joined ESO and got access to the VLT, they dropped out from paying for their half share of the Anglo-Australian Telescope. Why pay for access to a 4 M telescope at a mediocre site when you can have access to four 8 meter telescopes. So yes, I can easily see Canada dropping out of Gemini if they became an E-ELT partner.

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