From: LARRY KLAES (ljk4_at_msn.com)
Date: Wed Jun 27 2007 - 13:15:39 PDT
>From: Cornell Chronicle Online <cunews_at_cornell.edu>
>Reply-To: Cornell Chronicle Online <cunews_at_cornell.edu>
>To: CUNEWS-PHYSICAL_SCIENCE-L_at_cornell.edu (CUNEWS-PHYSICAL_SCIENCE-L),
>CUNEWS-CAMPUS-L_at_cornell.edu (CUNEWS-CAMPUS-L), CUNEWS-SCIENCE-L_at_cornell.edu
>Subject: Cornell Chronicle: Crusade to save planetary radar at Arecibo
>Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 16:10:08 -0400
>Chronicle Online e-News
>Cornell and NAIC search for funding to keep Arecibo's radar alive
>June 27, 2007
>By Melissa Rice
> The planetary radar system at the Arecibo Observatory, which Cornell
>manages for the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its National
>Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), is the most powerful in the world
>and is considered the best tool for tracking asteroids that may be on a
>collision course with the Earth.
>But since the Arecibo radar system may lose all its funding from NSF as
>soon as next year, Cornell astronomer Joseph Burns quips, "Let's hope that
>we find all the dangerous asteroids in the next few months."
>Last November, the Senior Review, an advisory committee to the NSF Division
>of Astronomical Sciences, recommended that Arecibo's total funding from
>that division be scaled back by 25 percent over the next three years. These
>cuts only allow operation of the planetary radar to continue into 2008; if
>the NAIC cannot find outside partners to cover half of the observatory's
>total operating costs by 2011, the telescope risks being shut down
>Many planetary scientists say that the Senior Review's recommendations
>completely overlooked the radar system. No planetary scientists sat on the
>committee, and only one reference was made to radar in the 78-page report
>(and no mention of asteroids). The chair of the American Astronomical
>Society's Division for Planetary Sciences and numerous other astronomers
>have urged NSF to reconsider the funding cuts, with radar in mind.
>"Asteroid impacts are the only known natural disaster that can cause
>ecological disaster and mass extinction. They can be prevented, though, and
>it is simply irresponsible to neglect a unique warning and mitigation
>device like the Arecibo radar," said Jean-Luc Margot, Cornell assistant
>professor of astronomy.
>The radar system also has led to important recent discoveries in planetary
>science, including the detection of ice at Mercury's poles and the
>discovery of binary asteroids. In the past year, Cornell astronomers and
>colleagues have published three articles in the prestigious journals
>Science and Nature based on Arecibo radar experiments, reporting the
>discovery of Mercury's molten core, a lack of evidence for ice reserves on
>the moon and on the detection of the YORP Effect.
>Although the radar system is not expensive -- its operating costs are
>roughly $1 million a year -- it is not clear who should pick up the tab.
>The NSF and NASA have both supported the radar in the past, but neither
>agency feels responsible for saving the radar now.
>The NSF feels that solar system science is not one of its high priorities,
>and should be NASA's responsibility, said Don Campbell, Cornell professor
>of astronomy and former associate director of the NAIC. But NASA focuses on
>space programs, not ground-based observatories. "Plus, they feel that it's
>not their responsibility to pick up programs previously funded by the NSF,"
>Robert Brown, director of the NAIC; Burns, Cornell vice provost of physical
>sciences and engineering; and Campbell recently met with NASA, NSF, the
>National Research Council and congressional staff to stress the importance
>of the Arecibo radar. Brown, Burns and Arecibo Observatory staff members
>are attending a town meeting in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, this week "to seek
>new partnerships to help fund and expand the observatory's role [in Puerto
>Rico]," said Burns.
>If neither agency agrees to foot the bill, the Arecibo radar will start
>operating with reduced hours in October 2007, and will likely be
>inactivated after September 30, 2008.
>"It would be a tremendous loss if the Arecibo radar gets shut down," said
>Campbell. "Then we'd only have the Goldstone radar system in California,
>which is 20 times less sensitive, and is used mainly for spacecraft
>telemetry. Many solar system studies would be seriously affected."
>Graduate student Melissa Rice is a writer intern with the Cornell
>312 College Ave.
>Ithaca, NY 14850
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