The installation of new telescopes at the Teide Observatory under study

Teide Observatory (above) and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (below). Credits: Daniel López and Pablo Bonet (IAC).
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The International Scientific Committee (CCI) of the Observatories of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) is the mechanism by which the institutions of the countries contributing to these observatories participate effectively in the adoption of decisions which affect the operation of the telescopes. Last Thursday, May 18th, the Committee met on the Campus of the University of Louvain (Belgium), acting as host institution, which is the owner of the MERCATOR telescope, in the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory (ORM, La Palma).

The President of the CCI meeting was Prof. Oskar van der Lühe, former director of the Kiepenheuer Institute of Solar Physics in Freiburg (Germany) one of the institutes of the group which is pushing for the European Solar Telescope (EST), and owner of the most powerful European solar telescopes working at the present time. Those attending included representatives of all the scientific installations of both observatories, who welcomed the Head of Operations of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), Christophe Dumas, as an observer, during the time until there is a decision on whether this telescope will eventually  be sited on La Palma.

During the meeting different aspects of the functioning of the telescopes were discussed, as well as the most important scientific goals achieved during the past year, the improvements in the coordination of the installations, and the plans for the development of instrumentation for them. In addition, the committe analysed questions relative to the progress of future prospective installations, and proposals for new telescopes at the Observatories.

The representative of the MAGIC telescopes and the CTA (Cherenkov Telescope Array) voiced his worry about the administrative complications which are affecting permission to install the Japanese 23m telescope LST1 on the platform already built for this at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory. This telescope will be the first of the CTA network, in which over 1,000 scientists from around the world are participating.

There also were present as observers researchers from the University of Liège (Belgium), who had shown, during previous meetings with the director of the IAC, Rafael Rebolo, interest in installing in the Canaries a group of 4 telescopes of 1m diameter for the detection of Earth-like planets. Those in charge of this project (SPECULOOS), which is expected to cost some 5 million euros, had proposed (according to information given in this region), the possibility of building it at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife.

In addition, the representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA), showed an interest in the development of a new optical ground station (OGS) for satellite communications, similar to that already installed at the Teide Observatory, but with a diameter of 4m (compared to the present 1m OGS). ESA also prefer that this installation is sited in Tenerife.

The President of the CCI, Oskar van der Lühe, expressed his worry about the administrative obstacles which are affecting the first telescope of the Cherenkov Telescope Array at the ORM (Garafía), and made an appeal to all the competent authorities to resolve this type of problems with due speed, as well as for the international community to maintain its support for the development of the Canary Island Observatories and to contribute to its recognized international prestige.

The Observatories of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) are a component of the network of Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructures (ISTS) of Spain.