Wednesday, Oct. 04, 2023 |
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Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.
The decommissioning of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory on Maunakea will no longer require several road closures.
CSO is the first of five Maunakea observatories slated for removal in exchange for the planned eventual construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. The decommissioning process will entail a full dismantling of the facility and the removal of its 34-foot primary mirror, which is to be sent to an observatory in Chile.
But where the removal of the mirror was previously expected to present a logistical challenge requiring an elaborate ballet of road closures, nighttime driving and practice runs, that process has been simplified, said CSO Director Sunil Golwala.
The original plan for removing the mirror was to keep it in one piece and transport it from Maunakea summit to Kawaihae Harbor, using a specialized trailer to carry the instrument and closing stretches of several roads in the process.
“We discovered that the cradle for the mirror we were going to use was not able to meet our needs,” Golwala said.
Instead, Golwala said, the mirror will be disassembled at the summit into four pieces small enough to fit into standard 40-foot-long shipping containers, obviating the need for any road closures.
“The telescope was built like this, with the primary mirror assembled in pieces connected by these rods,” Golwala said. “So, we’re just going to lay it down in the parking lot and remove those rods so that we can break it apart into four slices that we can fit into a shipping container.”
Golwala said that dismantling the mirror was not Caltech’s first choice because of the specialized knowledge required.
“This was first done 40 years ago, and it was last done about 30 years ago in California,” Golwala said. “So, we have to recover this expertise.”
The process also presents a greater risk of damaging the mirror, but Golwala said that is balanced by the reduced disruption and time required for the transportation from the summit.
Golwala said the decommissioning is expected to be completed by the end of summer, but added that specific dates have not been nailed down yet. Once the facility is dismantled, the site will be restored to its natural state.
The total decommissioning cost is estimated to be more than $4 million.
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