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UK astronomers will lose access to two of the world's finest telescopes in February, as administrators look to plug an £80m hole in their finances.
Observation programmes on the 8.1m telescopes of the Gemini organisation will end abruptly because Britain is cancelling its subscription.
It means UK astronomers can no longer view the Northern Hemisphere sky with the largest class of telescope.
Researchers say they are aghast at the administrators' decision.
"To withdraw from the state-of-the-art Gemini facilities leaves the UK ground-based astronomy strategy in disarray - some would say deliberately sabotaged," said Professor Paul Crowther from Sheffield University.