For the past many months, our observing abilities have been limited, with the closure of numerous observatories in Chili and Arizona. Construction was also stopped at the Vera Rubin Observatory, the home of the LSST. Due to the limited impact of COVID on the Big Island of Hawaii, Maunakea Observatories has stayed open for limited science and has been a proving ground for safety protocols and implementation of protective measures. Now, the lessons learned are being implemented elsewhere.
Construction of LSST has resumed and Kitt Peak National Observatory is doing the maintenance and preparatory activities needed to open by mid-November. Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) resumed activities October 11 with the four-meter Victor Blanco Telescope, and other facilities should be resuming activities in early November. SOAR has been doing engineering tests, and Gemini South is doing maintenance with the intention to resume science later in October.
While we’re still seeing a steady stream of research, the stream isn’t what it used to be, and we can expect it to continue to slowly dwindle as the research is impacted more and more by lack of telescope access, lab access, and the overall difficulty of getting work done with normal efficiency in these inexplicable times. Science goes slowly, with six months to two years often passing between observations being taken and journal articles being accepted and published. While predictions are that COVID will continue to impact the US through at least the fall of 2021, we can expect to see science impacted through 2023 or beyond.
And no, I have no idea how the launch date of the JWST will continue to evolve. If I were a betting person, I’d say 2022 at the earliest and most likely 2024.