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Astronomy: Scientists

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN HL2155, tabled on 19 July 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many UK scientists are working on (1) the James Webb Space Telescope, and (2) the Extremely Large Telescope European project under construction in Chile.

Answered on

28 July 2021

The UK’s role in James Webb Space Telescope, leading the Mid-Infrared Instrument known as MIRI, involved scientists, engineers, researchers and technicians from 46 organisations across the UK – supported by approximately £20M investment from UK Space Agency and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. At its peak, the instrument’s development programme was staffed by 25-30 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) per year. Approximately 360 UK scientists will be working with JWST scientific data following its launch in November 2021, through privilege access programmes for the first mission data, and guest observer programmes. When factoring in post docs and PhD students, who will support this research, this figure can be expected to effectively double.

We expect that when operational 200-400 UK researchers will seek time on the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) to support their science programmes. During the current construction phase a large proportion of UK scientists are working under commercial contract and we do not have access to staffing within those. When it starts operating in late-2020s, UK scientists will be able to use ELT to study the earliest evolution of stars and galaxies and to characterise and image other planets, possibly like our own.