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Hole in door not caused by bullet, Subaru says

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No, the Subaru Telescope didn’t take a bullet.

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No, the Subaru Telescope didn’t take a bullet.

Saeko Hayashi, a spokeswoman for the Mauna Kea observatory, said Monday morning that an approximately 9 mm hole in a metal door at the telescope was caused by it hitting a bolt sticking out from an intake manifold next to the side entrance.

On Sunday, the observatory said in a statement that an employee found what “appears to be a bullet hole” Saturday evening.

Police issued a press release that day saying they were investigating the incident.

But upon further examination, it became clear the hole lines up with the bolt and that the damage was not new, Hayashi said in a phone interview.

“When they opened the door all the way out, the hole matched the fixture that’s sticking out from the wall,” she said. “You don’t want to be standing between the door and the wall.”

Police confirmed Monday afternoon that the bolt was responsible for creating the hole. The damage had been there for about six months, they said in a statement.

The damage was first noticed by a day crew, and the door, which is used infrequently, was modified to prevent it from opening so widely, Hayashi said.

It wasn’t known if an employee was opening the door when the damage occurred, but strong winds might be to blame, she said. At times, the metal door can shrink because of cold temperatures and that might have allowed it to open on its own, Hayashi said.

“The day crews knew the presence of the hole at the time of the severe winter storm earlier this year,” telescope director Nobuo Arimoto said in an email. “The wrap-around effect of the wind could be very severe at times, which can swing the heavy metal door to create this kind of dent on the wall.”

Hayashi said it was a relief to find it wasn’t caused by a bullet.

“The situation is kind of tense,” she said, referring to the current standoff regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope. “We do not want to add anything to that.”

The 8.2-meter telescope is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, which is a partner in the TMT project.

TMT opponent Kaho‘okahi Kanuha said he was glad to see the matter resolved but also was disappointed that protesters, a few of whom remain camped on the mountain, were being accused on social media of being responsible.

“I’m just happy that it was figured out quickly, and we know that nobody’s safety was threatened because of that,” he said.

Before the source of the hole was discovered, a group representing the TMT protesters issued a statement saying it “strongly objects” to use of firearms above the hunting areas.

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“The Mauna Kea summit is a sacred temple of Akua and such behavior is a serious desecration of our spiritual practice and belief,” the Mauna Kea Hui said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.