|After years of passivity, the astronomy community is protesting telescope closings, cramped quarters, and scanty maintenance|
Like some ill solar wind, word is radiating through the galaxy of United States astronomers that they’ll have to shut down more of their small telescopes before plans to build a new one are approved. For many, this is the final straw.
Throughout the past decade, U.S. astronomers suffered in silence as the National Science Foundation retargeted money to areas of science likely to produce more practical payoffs. Most bit their tongues for example, during four years of flat funding, amounting to an annual budget reduction after inflation of 5%. Few protested frozen salaries, curtailments in observing time, breakups of effective research teams, deteriorating facilities, and cancellations of projects deemed critical to keep the U.S. astronomy program competitive.
But this spring, when Sidney Wolff, director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), drew up...