The Maunakea telescope will be decommissioned this summer


Maunakea. PC: University of Hawaii – Hilo

The decommissioning of the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory on lands managed by the University of Hawaii at Maunakea will be completed by the end of 2022, according to a February 10 press release of the CSO.

The Hawaii State Board of Lands and Natural Resources unanimously approved a Conservation District Use Permit on January 14, 2022 for the removal and restoration of the CSO Observatory site.

The CSO is one of two telescopes on Maunakea currently in the final stages of the decommissioning process, established in Maunakea’s overall management plan. The UH Hilo Hōkū Kea Telescope is set to be decommissioned in 2023.

California Institute of Technology Submillimeter Observatory (left); and the Hōkū Keʻa Telescope (right). PC: University of Hawaii

“The decommissioning of these first two observatories will be an important step in mauna stewardship,” said Greg Chun, executive director of the UH Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship. “This is a very thorough process as a lot of work went into developing the CMP over a decade ago which guides our management of Maunakea.”

CMS is responsible for the administration of the BLNR-approved CMP as well as the new Maunakea Master Plan, approved by the UH Board of Directors in January 2022, and administrative rules.


The new master plan set a limit of nine operating astronomy facilities at Maunakea by 2033. Five of the 14 astronomy sites will be permanently closed to astronomy development once existing facilities are decommissioned.


More generally, the master plan serves as a framework for aligning land use decisions in accordance with HU’s mission and purpose. The administrative rules cover public and commercial activities.

The CMP addresses activities such as protection of cultural, natural and scientific resources, education and awareness, permits and compliance, infrastructure and maintenance, construction activities, operations and monitoring. The CMP has four sub-plans – public access, cultural resource management, natural resource management and observatory decommissioning which further specify these activities. According to the decommissioning subplan, Maunakea observatories are responsible for the cost of decommissioning.

The CDUP for CSO sets the terms necessary for dismantling. As part of the process, CSO carried out an archaeological assessment, cultural framework analysis, hydrogeological assessment, biological inventory, biological framework analysis, traffic analysis and asbestos/lead paint/ The molds.


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