Continuing Evolution of the JCMT


In the Summer 2013 issue of E-Cass, I described the strategic considerations leading to the dissolution of the partnership that has operated the JCMT for the past 27 years. In summary,

·         The Netherlands (20% share) withdrew from the partnership on 31st March 2013;

·         in Canada , NRC (25% share) will withdraw from the partnership on 30th September this year; and

·         in view of these developments, the UK (55% share) decided to cease operating the telescope on the date of NRC’s withdrawal.

The decisions in The Netherlands and Canada to withdraw from the JCMT were both driven by commitments to ALMA under highly-constrained funding environments.


The end of the partnership is not, however, the end of the telescope. On 21st June 2013, I issued an Announcement of Opportunity soliciting Expressions of Interest in operating the JCMT. I am pleased to report that four Expressions of Interest were received: one each from the UK and Canadian communities, one from Purple Mountain Observatory, and one from the East Asia Core Observatories Association (EACOA). EACOA is an affiliation of four astronomical research institutes: ASIAA (Taiwan), NAOC (China), KASI (South Korea) and NAOJ (Japan).


EACOA and the UK and Canadian communities now plan to form a new partnership to operate the JCMT (the interest from Purple Mountain has been subsumed within EACOA). EACOA will be the lead partner. Funding initiatives are underway in the UK and Canada to support the continued participation of those communities; in Canada, Chris Wilson is coordinating the effort to secure university funds.


EACOA submitted a full proposal to the University of Hawaii (UH) in April and negotiation of agreements between the various parties in this transaction has commenced. The goal is to finalise these agreements and complete the transfer of the telescope by 30th September.


The withdrawal of NRC from the JCMT after 27 years is a historic event for Canadian astronomy, and I am grateful to the organizing committee of the recent CASCA meeting in Quebec City for inviting me to give a plenary talk to mark the occasion. Participation in the JCMT has enabled an astonishing growth of infrared and submillimetre astronomy in Canada, providing the platform for leadership in new and envisaged facilities such as Spitzer, BLAST, ALMA, Herschel, CCAT and SPICA. Although NRC’s withdrawal is regrettable, I am delighted that there appears to be scope for continued Canadian participation in the observatory.


Professor Gary Davis,

Director, JCMT.