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New Deadline for Proposals to Operate KPNO 2.1-meter Telescope

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 16:01

Following a review process (the Portfolio Review) and due to financial pressures, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has determined that it can no longer provide operational support for the 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) after 30 September 2014. Therefore, NSF and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) are accepting proposals from parties interested in operating the KPNO 2.1-m and associated Coudé Feed telescopes. In accordance with the existing master lease agreement between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Tohono O'odham nation, the facilities are expected to be used for astronomical study and research and related scientific and educational purposes.

Interested parties are encouraged to submit a letter of intent by 1 August 2014 to the Associate Director for KPNO, Dr. Lori Allen. Letters should be as substantive as possible in addressing the selection factors in the announcement; in stating the fraction of time needed, if less than 100%; in expressing any need for a broker to put together a consortium; and in stating how solid the prospects are for a full proposal. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to discuss their interests with Dr. Allen before submitting a letter or a proposal. Proposals are due by midnight EDT 1 October 2014 and should also be submitted to Dr. Allen. A decision on the proposals will be made in November.

As the second major telescope to be constructed on Kitt Peak, the 2.1-m saw first light in 1964 and has since been in continual operation by KPNO. The history of the telescope includes many important discoveries in astrophysics, such as the Lyman-alpha forest, the first gravitational lens, the first pulsating white dwarf, and the first comprehensive study of the binary frequency of solar-type stars. The 2.1-m is currently outfitted with a direct imaging CCD camera and is in nightly operation. The Coudé Spectrograph in the 2.1-m building is operable only with the Coudé Feed telescope, which is therefore included in this announcement of opportunity.

Proposals to operate one or both facilities are invited from institutions or consortia that are prepared to assume full responsibility — technical, scientific, and financial. Any proposed use of this telescope must be broadly consistent with the research and education missions of NSF and NOAO. Proposals with innovative educational and public-outreach concepts are particularly encouraged. The operating organization would continue to permit public access and/or guided tours to enter the existing public observation gallery in the 2.1-m during the daytime, subject to compatibility with the organization's operations activities. Furthermore, if compatible with instrumentation and operations, NOAO wishes to retain some telescope access for community users, with the details to be negotiated. NSF would expect to retain title to the facilities under a new operating organization. However, transfer of title is a possibility subject to further discussion. 

For further details, see the full announcement of opportunity.

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