- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - The oldest telescope atop a dormant volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is getting a makeover this spring.

The $5 million effort to refurbish the University of Hawaii’s observatory will involve repainting the dome, replacing siding, improving safety and other features. Colin Aspin, who heads the telescope program, said the work will begin in May, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2lexltn) Monday.

The observatory has been operational since 1970 and was one of the first on the mountain.

“I look at the 2.2-meter telescope as being like a flagship for the University of Hawaii,” Aspin said. “Because it’s a professional telescope. It’s large enough you can do an incredible amount of good science.”

The project to upgrade the telescope was also intended to help make it fully automated, but Aspin said costs came in higher than expected. He estimates another $2 million to $3 million is needed for the telescope to be able to function remotely in Hilo.

“Our plan is to be first (on Mauna Kea) to run the whole night without human interaction,” Aspin said.

The Legislature has contributed $2.5 million toward the upgrades. Funding for adaptive optics, which adjust for distortion in the Earth’s atmosphere, is being sought separately through NASA and science foundations.

Aspin said the Office of Mauna Kea Management has given its approval for the repair plans to help ensure the safety of the public and protection of the environment.

“We’re making sure we don’t litter the place, making sure we don’t leave paint chips around, making sure we protect visitors at the summit,” Aspin said. “That, for me, is important; that we look after that mountain. It’s a precious place.”

The work is expected to wrap up in August.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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