Closure of the ST-ECF

Robert Fosbury,

Following decisions made by both ESA and ESO during the last few years, the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF) closed and ceased operations on 31 December 2010. Established as a joint venture between these two organizations in 1984, the ST-ECF has worked in close collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore to support European users of Hubble and to provide significant contributions to the operation of the observatory and its instruments. The history of the activities of the ST-ECF group in Garching, Germany, is captured in the 48 issues of the ST-ECF Newsletter.

Information resulting from the group’s instrument science activities has been transferred to the Institute, and is available from that web site. Of topical interest, this includes all the work concerned with slitless spectroscopy obtained with NICMOS, ACS, and WFC3.

The Hubble outreach activities, started in response to a request from NASA more than a decade ago and delivered through, will continue at a substantial, but somewhat more modest, level with the continued involvement of the ESO education and Public Outreach Department and a financial contribution from ESA.

Until very recently, it was intended to keep the European Hubble Data Archive at ESO, where it was originally the model for the development of the ESO Science Archive Facility. The intention now, however, is to create a European access point for Hubble data at the European Space Astronomy Centre in Spain. ESO will cooperate as far as possible in achieving this transfer in a way that avoids an interruption in public availability in Europe.

Arrangements for the travel of European scientists to the USA on ESA Hubble business—previously dealt with by the ST-ECF—will now be handled by ESA’s Hubble Mission Manager at the Institute.

The European engagement with the Hubble project and its outstanding record of scientific productivity was recently marked by a conference, exhibition, and art installation in the city of Venice, hosted by the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti and organized in conjunction with the Institute. (See accompanying article on this meeting.)