Third observatory on Mauna Kea to be decommissioned

Local News

The University of Hawaii announced Wednesday that in its implementation of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan, the third observatory that will be decommissioned will be the UKIRT Observatory, formerly known as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.

The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory has ceased operations and begun the decommissioning planning process, and UH Hilo has initiated the decommissioning process for its Hoku Kea telescope. Detailed planning for the removal of the UKIRT observatory and restoration of the site will begin some time after the decommissioning processes for the Caltech and Hoku Kea observatories and will be completed in accordance with Governor Ige’s plan.

No new observatories will be built on the three sites.

“UH is fulfilling its promise to take several telescopes down from the mountain,” said Guenther Hasinger, UH Manoa Institute for Astronomy director. “For us, the scientists, this is a very hard thing, but this has to be done.”

The general decommissioning process for observatories is outlined in the management plan to ensure that the decommissioning is handled properly and in a culturally and environmentally respectful manner. The process starts with the development of a site decommissioning plan that must include an environmental due diligence review, deconstruction and removal plan, site restoration plan and remedial action plan if necessary.

The UKIRT Observatory began operations in 1979 and was built and operated by science agencies of the United Kingdom. Ownership recently was transferred to UH, and the observatory is currently operated as a research partnership with UH, the University of Arizona and the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Advanced Technology Center.

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