Astronomers gather to delay eclipse of funding for telescope - Tucson News Now

Astronomers gather to delay eclipse of funding for solar telescope

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TUCSON, AZ (TNN) –  About 100 people, such as engineers and scientists, will leave Tucson when the National Solar Observatory moves all its members to Boulder, Colorado.  But they don't want to leave a $60-100 million solar telescope to ruin.

National Science Foundation funding has dropped to the point that the telescope runs on less than $200 thousand a year, or similar to the income of three or four families.  The discussion Thursday was how to round up enough interested groups, private organizations, non-profits, or public institutions to take over that annual operations budget as the NSF shifts its funding to newer projects.

Those in charge right now are trying to buy some time so that they can get this consortium together.

Having a new group in charge of the McMath-Pierce Telescope could mean more access for K-12 students, undergraduates, and learning camps, as well as researchers.

"It's not like you're going to a math class, then a science class and then an engineering class.  Everything's involved in operating the telescope and collecting data.  So we could have someone visit the facility and do that, we could have remote access as another option where scientists across the country can use the web.  The good thing about the McMath(-Pierce) is it's operating during the day.  Students can log in and take pictures of the sun or sunspots," said Dr. Matt Penn, McMath-Pierce Telescope Scientist and Associate Astronomer for the National Solar Observatory.

Those who met Thursday plan on sending the NSF a letter, and expect by April or so to know if they have a funding extension.

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