Removal, Site Restoration on First Maunakea Telescope Should be Done by Year’s End

February 10, 2022, 12:00 PM HST
* Updated February 10, 10:46 AM
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the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory from Maunakea.

Caltech has received the final approval needed to begin decommissioning the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory from Maunakea.

Removal and site restoration should be completed by the end of the year, Caltech stated in a news release Thursday, Feb. 10.

The Hawai‘i State Board of Land and Natural Resources unanimously approved the Conservation District Use Permit Jan. 14 for the decommissioning of the observatory, or CSO, from the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

“We are grateful to move forward with the deconstruction process,” said Caltech physics professor and CSO Director Sunil Golwala, Ph.D. “Caltech aims to undertake the decommissioning this summer, with removal and restoration completed by the end of 2022.”

It will be the first observatory removed under the 2010 Decommissioning Plan for Maunakea Observatories.


During its lifespan, the CSO was one of the world’s premier facilities for astronomical research and instrumentation development at submillimeter wavelengths.


The permit, or CDUP, is the culmination of the careful process required under Hawai‘i law to address technical aspects of removal of the CSO and the restoration of its site, including a detailed review of the potential cultural and environmental impacts. The CDUP sets the terms and conditions that Caltech must follow during the decommissioning. Copies of the CDUP, the Final Environmental Assessment, and other planning documents can be found here.

The CSO’s 10.4-meter submillimeter telescope, which came online in 1987 for use in research by astronomers at Caltech – a world-renowned private science and engineering Institute located in Pasadena, Calif. – and other institutions, is housed in a compact dome near the summit of Maunakea. The telescope was used by scientists, including almost 200 student and postdoctoral researchers, to open a new submillimeter window on the universe. A summary of CSO’s contributions to astronomy and astronomical instrumentation are available here.

All the astronomical instruments were removed from the facility in 2015.



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