Removal of Caltech Telescope from Maunakea is underway
Disassembly of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory’s (CSO) 34-foot diameter telescope on Maunakea began the week of August 28. The entire decommissioning process is expected to be completed by summer 2024 and cost more than $4 million. CSO is the first observatory to be removed under the Decommissioning Plan of the University of Hawai'i Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan.
“Our team has started working inside the observatory to take apart the telescope and get it ready for removal,” Caltech physics professor and Caltech Submillimeter Telescope Director Sunil Golwala said. “The aluminum panels that make up the reflecting surface of the telescope have been removed and packed. The secondary mirror and its support structure were removed last week.”
CSO said that there are monitors for all phases of the project, including decommissioning, cultural, construction and archeological monitors, in accordance with the permits guiding the telescope’s removal.
CSO came online in 1987 and opened a new submillimeter window into the universe.
Workers will use a crane and a manlift to disassemble the telescope and its mirror and then transport it down the mountain in shipping containers. A cultural practitioner conducted a blessing at the site and also an orientation for the staff before the work began.
This phase of the decommissioning process is expected to be completed by the end of September. The next phase will be the removal of the remaining buildings and infrastructure.
“Removal of above-ground structures and below-ground infrastructure will be deferred to next spring because of inclement winter weather,” said Golwala. “Restoration to the level approved under our permit will occur next summer after all structures are removed.”
Regular updates will be provided by CSO.
The decommissioning of the UH Hilo Hōkū Ke'a Telescope is scheduled to begin by the end of 2023 and completed in the first half of 2024.
The Center for Maunakea Stewardship works to achieve harmony, balance and trust in the sustainable management and stewardship of the Maunakea Science Reserve through extending Native Hawaiian and community involvement and programs that protect, preserve and enhance the cultural, natural, educational and scientific resources of Maunakea in a manner that integrates traditional Indigenous knowledge and modern science.