Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Professor and Department Chair Mary Hall Reno was quoted in a news article in the June 23, 2023 edition of Science about the NSF's plans to delay new astroparticle/astronomy projects in Antarctica to focus on infrastructure improvements at polar facilities

The article noted that the National Science Foundation told researchers in a June 12  “Dear Colleague”  letter that after the pandemic lockdown, it must attend to a backlog of maintenance at multiple Antarctic sites. At the South Pole, for the next several years the agency will only support experiments that have already been approved to go forward. “[P]roposers seeking support for new projects at South Pole Station should consult the cognizant program officer to discuss alternative locations,” the letter says.

That sentence has physicists wondering when NSF will go forward with two major projects that must be built at the pole. One would deploy new cosmic microwave background (CMB) telescopes there and the other would expand the gargantuan IceCube neutrino detector. The projects, known as CMB-S4 and IceCube-Gen2, aim to start building within 5 years. “Maybe in the next few weeks we’ll get a little more clarity what the Dear Colleague letter actually means,” says Reno.