Title: Dire Budget Projections from NSF AST
This morning, Julie brought to my attention a recent development in the NSF AST budget drama: Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) might be closed. Due to the enormous impact this would have on the astronomical community, it was decided that this needed to be discussed at today's Astro Lunch before we got to the planned paper. The closure of KPNO hits close to home for Dartmouth astronomers as MDM Observatory is located on Kitt Peak, though about 2 miles from KPNO. Currently, much of the infrastructure at MDM is sub-leased through KPNO, so one can imagine how much strain this would put on MDM. Just imagine, if you will, renting an apartment and having your landlord walk away from the mortgage, leaving you with very few options.
It would be selfish, however, to only analyze this situation in terms of the effects on MDM. The amount of science that would be lost with the closure of KPNO is unimaginable. Small telescopes are crucial on multiple levels, even if we have a few large survey telescopes (LSST, ALMA). I won't discuss the financial details here, as they are available online. I encourage everyone to head to the website linked in the title above. NOAO gives a solid overview of the current situation and just how dire it may be. There is also an NOAO discussion forum in which people can discuss and leave their thoughts and comments on the potential closure of KPNO. We must also be careful NOT to panic, this is not set in stone and hasn't been formally approved, but clearly people are talking about it and the idea has been raised.
Civil discourse is always ideal and there is no reason to overreact. Join the discussion, follow the debates, and stay informed. While we must not panic, we must also work to save KPNO if it is endangered. Let us know your thoughts, we're interested to hear all your perspectives.