Announcement on the termination of VERA project ahead of schedule and prospects for future operation of VERA stations

Dear All,

Announcement on the termination of VERA project ahead of schedule and prospects for future operation of VERA stations

Mizusawa VLBI Observatory, NAOJ
Mareki Honma

On March 26th, Mizusawa VLBI observatory of NAOJ is officially notified by the NAOJ executives on their decisions

 i) that Mizusawa VLBI Observatory’s VERA project will be terminated at the end of this observing season (June 2020),
 ii) that the budget of the observatory for fiscal year 2020 is reduced accordingly (~50% reduction compared from last year)

Although our original plan was to continue the operation of all four VERA antennas at least until 2022, with this decision, we regretfully announce that VERA operation will be terminated early fiscal year 2020. Currently we are evaluating the impact of the cost reduction and drafting a future operation plan, but here we notify the expected impacts as follows.

1) Full operation of VERA with four antennas (for VERA, KaVA, and East Asian VLBI Network) will stop at the end of the current observation season (2020 mid-June).
2) After July 2020, the operation of three stations other than Mizusawa (Iriki, Ogasawara, Ishigaki-jima stations) will be suspended.
3) For open use after July 2020,
 a) open use of VERA will be no longer available.
 b) KVN and VERA Array (KaVA) will reduce its number of operating stations from 7 to 4.
 c) East Asian VLBI (EAVN) will reduce its maximum number of operating stations from 11 to 8.

The details of the observation modes and period for future open use will be notified later. Please accept our sincere apology for causing huge inconvenience to the astronomy community.

Originally NAOJ had a plan to continue VERA project at least until March 2022. With this plan, Mizusawa VLBI Observatory, in collaboration with user community, has been promoting research using VERA, and also has been developing observation networks with Korea and China to build up KaVA and EAVN. Such international collaboration laid the groundwork for promoting collaboration in Asia to contribute to EHT, which achieved the successful imaging of the black hole shadow of M87 in April 2019. Meanwhile, the possibility of budget cuts suddenly emerged last December in the NAOJ executive, and since then Mizusawa VLBI Observatory had been negotiating with the NAOJ executive to reconsider such a sudden budget cut because it would cause significant impact on the VLBI user community and its research activity. Regardless of such effort, unfortunately the decision was finally made by the NAOJ executive and was notified to us on March 26th.

Mizusawa VLBI Observatory will continue our efforts to find partners for antenna operation and/or external funding to continue operation of as many antennas as possible, and we appreciate your continuous support and cooperation.

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