Calar Alto observatory may be forced to close after budget cuts of 75%

La Voz de Almería reports that Calar Alto, the observatory high on the hills above the desert of Tabernas, is on the brink of closure after seeing its budget slashed by 70%.

“The only rational choice at this budget level” reports the director of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), Matilde Fernández, in an interview, “is to lay off staff and put our multi-million euro telescopes into storage”.

The budget has been cut to just 1,2 million euros for 2013 (down 75% over 2008 levels) after the Spanish state suspended its annual grant to the observatory as part of the austerity measures. The director says that at this level, she will have to fire 50 scientists (about half of the staff there),and put most of their equipment into long term storage.

Calar Alto at sunset

The German-Spanish Astronomical Center at Calar Alto is located in the Sierra de Los Filabres (Andalucía, Southern Spain) north of Almeria.

It is operated jointly by the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC) in Granada/Spain. Calar Alto provides three telescopes with apertures of 1.23m, 2.2m and 3.5m to the general community. A 1.5m-telescope, also located on the mountain, is operated under the control of the Observatory of Madrid.

Calar Alto is the highest peak (2168 m over sea level) in the Sierra de Los Filabres, above Tabernas desert. It is also the highest peak in the province of Almería.

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