East Hawaii News

UKIRT Observatory Added to Decommission Plan

October 21, 2015, 9:19 AM HST
* Updated November 23, 1:57 PM
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The UKIRT Observatory on Mauna Kea, formally known as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, is the latest observatory to be identified for decommissioning by the University of Hawai’i.

UH’s announcement follows earlier announcements from the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo that they would be starting the process of decommissioning its own telescopes and observatories. Caltech’s observatory has ended operations and has started the decommissioning process, while UH-Hilo has also started the process of decommissioning its Hoku Ke’a telescope.

No new telescopes will be built on the sites of the decommissioned telescopes, according to UH.

Governor David Ige introduced a plan last May to improve the stewardship of Mauna Kea. Part of his plan included the reduction of 25 percent of the telescopes on the mountain before the Thirty Meter Telescope could begin operations. He released his plan in the midst of a public controversy over the TMT project, which has included multiple construction delays and legal challenges.

“UH is fulfilling its promise to take several telescopes down from the mountain. You can imagine for us as scientists this is [a] very hard thing but this has to be done,” said Guenther Hasinger, Director of the UH Manoa Institute for Astronomy.

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According to UH, the decommissioning process for the UKIRT Observatory will not begin until the decommissioning processes are done with Hoku Ke’a and Caltech.

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The decommissioning process falls under the Office of Mauna Kea Management’s Comprehensive Management Plan. It includes the development of a site decommissioning plan with an environmental due diligence review, deconstruction and removal plan, site restoration plan, and remedial action plan, if needed.

UKIRT Observatory started operations in 1979. It is currently run as an operations partnership between UH, the University of Arizona, and the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Advanced Technology Center.

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