Astronomy and Particle Physics

Written evidence submitted by Professor Francisco Sanchez,

Director, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (APP 20)

This letter is a submission of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Tenerife, Spain, to form part of your inquiry into Astronomy and Particle Physics in the UK. We particularly wish to comment on points 2 and 4 in your inquiry, on international ground-based facilities and on outreach.

1. The UK and Spain collaborate closely in Astronomy and Particle Physics, including multi-national (ESO, ESA, CERN) and bi-national agreements.

2. This includes the Agreements on Cooperation in Astrophysics, which continue to deliver tremendous scientific benefit to both UK and Spain through the joint operation of several telescope installations on the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the Spanish island of La Palma, which is operated by the IAC.

3. Within the Observatory, the UK remains a priority partner for Spain, due to our long history of collaboration, to the leadership shown by the UK and to the quality of our joint facilities.

4. Spain, and the IAC in particular, remain very satisfied with this collaboration and wish to maintain and extend it.

5. The William Herschel Telescope (WHT) plays a key role, and will continue to do so for many years to come. Other facilities include the Isaac Newton Telescope, SuperWASP and the Liverpool Telescope. These facilities have a very strong user base in the UK, as well as in Spain.

6. The Isaac Newton Group, which operates the WHT, is leading an excellent new initiative aimed at adding top-quality instrumentation to the WHT. This is a mainly UK-Spanish-Dutch initiative, fully supported by the IAC. There is very broad support for this initiative from the UK astronomical community.

7. Spain is the majority partner (90%) of the 10-m GTC telescope on La Palma, which is just now coming into full operation.

 

8. The GTC is the largest single optical telescope in world, and the largest optical telescope in the Northern Hemisphere.

9. The GTC is open to international partners, including the UK. The IAC is very interested in continuing the existing telescope agreement with the UK, which can be re-focused on a joint operation of WHT and the GTC.

10. This would give the UK community unique access to a 10-m optical telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, which will be needed to follow up discoveries to be made with other facilities; such as e-Merlin and LOFAR from the ground and Planck, Herschel, JWST and GAIA from space. All of these have significant UK involvement and some of them are cornerstones to UK astronomy in the next decade.

11. The Canary Island Observatories play a key role in the education of the next generation of researchers, through winter and summer schools, and a successful resident student programme where UK astronomy post-graduates get hands-on experience working at the telescope.

12. Public outreach has always been a priority for both our UK partners and the IAC. Examples of this are live BBC broadcasts from La Palma,and the excellent National Schools Observatory programme, operated by the Liverpool Telescope.

13. We look forward to continued successful collaboration with the UK, through the Research Council as well as through all the Universities involved in the La Palma facilities.

Declaration of interests: The IAC owns and manages the international observatories on La Palma and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The IAC is a partner in the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes.

Professor Francisco Sanchez

Director

Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

17 February 2011