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Closure of Solar-Stellar Program at the McMath-Pierce Telescope (1Dec95) (from Director's Office, NOAO Newsletter No. 44, December 1995) In September, I informed Goetz Oertel, the President of AURA, that we would be forced to end the program of solar-stellar observations at the McMath-Pierce Telescope for budgetary reasons. Following is the memo I sent him justifying this action and giving a summary of the alternatives that I believe are now available for pursuing this type of science: I regret to inform you that the synoptic solar-stellar program at the McMath-Pierce Telescope will be terminated at the end of calendar year 1995. This decision has been made for budgetary reasons and after careful consideration of priorities within NSO and alternate opportunities to pursue solar-stellar research. As you recall, Jacques Beckers announced the termination of this program as a result of the budgetary reduction that was imposed in early January of this year. It was his view that NSO had to give highest priority to its programs in solar physics and that the budget was no longer adequate to keep all of the NSO facilities in operation. We received a large number of letters from the solar-stellar community expressing concern about this decision. In late January, the NSF provided an additional $2M to NOAO in order to restructure its program. Although these funds were specifically not to be used to cover long-term operations, I did use some of the restructuring money in order to continue the solar-stellar program for one additional year. It was hoped that the solar-stellar community would find alternate ways to continue operation of the nighttime program either at the McMath-Pierce or at some other facility. Additional non-NSF support has not yet been identified by the solar-stellar community, and NOAO's own operating budget has been cut by an additional 5 percent effective this coming fiscal year. NSO has not changed its view of its own priorities and has not funded the operation of the solar-stellar program in FY 1996. In reviewing NOAO's overall priorities, I have concluded that there are now viable alternatives for solar-stellar research that did not exist when the McMath-Pierce nighttime program was initiated. The WIYN telescope is on line, and the NOAO share of the observing time is queue-scheduled, thereby enabling studies of variability on a variety of time scales. The WIYN is equipped with a multi-fiber spectrograph, which is well suited to the study of rotation and dynamo-related activity in solar-type stars in clusters. Determinations of rotation periods, activity levels, cycle lengths and amplitudes for a well defined sample of stars with a range of ages will lead to major advances in the understanding of stellar astrophysics. Phoenix will soon come on line, offering resolutions of 100,000 in the near infrared. This instrument will enable breakthrough studies of magnetic fields in late-type stars. The Coude Feed and the 4-m telescope are both equipped with moderate to high resolution spectrographs. We expect to build a clone of the WIYN fiber positioner for CTIO, and cluster studies can then be extended to the southern hemisphere. I will work with the solar-stellar community to understand what modifications in nighttime instrumentation and scheduling approaches would best accommodate observations of solar-type and other cool stars. I will ensure that appropriate NSO staff are included in discussions of instrument priorities in the NOAO nighttime program; it is likely that the KPNO and CTIO time allocation committees will merge sometime in the next year or two and will very likely change to discipline-oriented sub-committees, which may help with some of the scheduling issues. A major lack in the KPNO suite of instrumentation is a spectrograph at the 4-m telescope with a resolution of 100,000 or greater. KPNO has considered building such a spectrograph but it is not currently possible within the resource envelope. If NOAO cannot find funds in a timely manner, perhaps some group in the solar-stellar community will take on the task of building such a spectrograph. If it could be coupled with a fiber to the 4-m focal plane, then this instrument could easily be switched in during gray, bright, and non-photometric conditions and possibly gain significant amounts of observing time in that manner. While it is painful for any portion of the community to lose access to a highly productive facility and also painful for NOAO to reduce observing opportunities for the scientists we are committed to serve, we see no alternative given the current budget and the negative projections for future budgets. Because there appear to be viable alternatives for solar-stellar research at NOAO, I must regretfully conclude that it is necessary to end the synoptic solar-stellar program at the McMath-Pierce. Sidney C. Wolff, Director
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