Monday, Feb. 26, 2024|
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University of Hawaii
Artist’s rendering of a teaching telescope proposed for a site at Halepohaku on Maunakea.
University of Hawaii
An aerial view of Halepohaku, with the proposed telescope site outlined. The telescope platform would directly connect to the Halepohaku dorm building.
A planned installation for an educational telescope at Halepohaku on Maunakea is on schedule to be completed some time in 2024.
The Maunakea Management Board of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Maunakea Stewardship on Tuesday will discuss whether to approve a draft environmental assessment for the New Educational Telescope Facility.
The project would place an 28-inch-wide telescope and an 18-foot dome at the midlevel facility at Halepohaku. The facility would replace the university’s Hoku Ke‘a teaching telescope on Maunakea summit, which is in the process of being decommissioned and hasn’t actually functioned since 2010.
If the board approves the draft assessment — which determined that the project would have no significant environmental impact — the university will hold public meetings about the project some time in September, said Rene Pierre Martin, director of the UH-Hilo Educational Observatory.
Assuming the permitting process and other prerequisites are completed on schedule, Martin said construction should begin by the middle of 2024.
The project design is not yet finalized, Martin said, but the environmental assessment describes a 774-square-foot deck that would be attached to the existing Halepohaku dorm facility.
Without a finalized design, Martin said the total cost of the project has not yet been determined, but the combined cost of the telescope and dome — both of which UH already possesses — is about $500,000.
When completed, Martin said the primary users of the telescope will be UH students, but others will have access to it as well.
“My dream is to have teachers be able to show it to their students,” Martin said, adding that the telescope primarily will be remotely accessible. “It’s unlikely that UH students will be able to use it 365 nights a year, so why not work with the community?”
As for the site itself, Martin said the location further down the mountain means that the image quality will not be as sharp as it would be on the summit — movement of air traveling downslope leads to distortions in the picture, he explained — but it is good enough for educational purposes.
“I was there just two nights ago, and I was surprised how dark the sky is,” Martin said. “For our purposes, it’s good enough for research. It’s not the summit, but I think it’s the best second option we could find on the island.”
Meanwhile, Martin said he expects deconstruction work on Hoku Ke‘a will begin next summer.
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