Despite all our hard work in keeping UKIRT operating over the last few years and our change to Minimalist Mode described here and here, the UK government has seen fit to cut back even further. I don't know how we'll deal with this since Minimalist Mode really means that - we can't cut back any more.
By the end of the year UKIRT will have to reduce the size of its primary mirror to less than two metres. For three decades UKIRT was the largest dedicated infrared telescope on the planet with a primary of around 3.8 metres (about 12.5 feet) but the UK government has decided that this costs too much to maintain, so by the start of 2012 the diameter of the mirror must be reduced to save costs. This will save money in both staff and utility costs as there will be less of a mirror to clean, fewer staff will be needed given the reduced area to operate and utility bills will reduce by about a factor of four given the reduction in primary mirror area.
There is also a rumour going around that all of our computer monitors will be reduced in size by a similar amount to save electricity. In the meantime I have been asked to look at shortening the length of the fibres between Hilo and the summit of Mauna Kea as a further cost-cutting exercise and one possibility is using a company such as FedEx or UPS to transfer our data down from the summit after each night and thereby bypassing the need for a fast and expensive network connection entirely.
On the brighter side we managed to fight off one of the other proposals in the government scheme which was to keep the dome closed during the night in order to save heating costs.
This will be an interesting year to say the least...