WATCH: Location chosen for student telescope on Maunakea; Hōkū Keʻa removal planned

UH Hilo Associate Professor of Astronomy and Observatory Director R. Pierre Martin says a specific spot in the Halepōhaku area is the best place to site the small observatory, after Hōkū Keʻa is removed from the summit.

Big Island Video News reports (Aug 12, 2020):

The precise location preferred by scientists for the new UH-Hilo student telescope was revealed this week, as the process to decommission the Hōkū Keʻa observatory on the summit of Maunakea continues.

Dr. R. Pierre Martin, the director of the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo Hōkū Keʻa observatory, told the Mauna Kea Management Board during a virtual meeting on Monday that the best site, by far, is the area of Halepōhaku behind “Dorm-A” at the Mid-Level facilities. At that location, Martin said, the observatory would be on an already-disturbed soil area, and would operate under very dark (limited light pollution) conditions. The location has good weather statistics and excellent sky visibility, Martin explained, and would offer students convenient and safe access, a Dorm-A option for a local control room, and allow students to work in a pro-astronomy environment.

The new observatory would be small comparable in size to the Hōkū Keʻa, which is much smaller than the other observatories on the summit. The new student observatory will feature a PlaneWave CDK700 0.7m telescope housed in an AstroHaven 18-foot Dome, Martin explained.

Martin says the consulting firm SSFM International Inc. has been retained to help with the proposal which will include conducting all the necessary environmental, cultural, and geological studies, and applying for all the proper permits. Martin said funding for the construction is not yet identified.

The University of Hawaiʻi is working to develop a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Site Decommissioning Plan (SDP) for the Hōkū Keʻa telescope at the summit, one of the first two telescopes to undergo the removal process. SSFM International Inc. is also working on that project. The decommissioning of Hōkū Keʻa is anticipated to be completed in mid-to-late 2023.