Caltech has received the final approval needed to begin decommissioning the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) from Maunakea in Hawai‘i.
On January 14, 2022, the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources unanimously approved the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for the decommissioning of the CSO from the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.
"We are grateful to move forward with the deconstruction process," says Sunil Golwala, Caltech physics professor and CSO director. "Caltech aims to undertake the decommissioning this summer, with removal and restoration completed by the end of 2022." This will be the first observatory removed under the 2010 Decommissioning Plan for Maunakea Observatories.
During its lifespan, the CSO was one of the world's premier facilities for astronomical research and instrumentation development at submillimeter wavelengths. Discoveries made at the facility include an elucidation of the role of atomic carbon in the space between stars, a new phase of stellar evolution for red giant stars, the first ground-based detection of heavy water in a comet, and more.
The CSO's 10.4-meter submillimeter telescope, which came online in 1987 for use in research by astronomers at Caltech and other institutions, is housed in a compact dome near the summit of Maunakea. The telescope was used by many scientists, including almost 200 student and postdoctoral researchers. All the astronomical instruments were removed from the facility in 2015.
The CDUP is the culmination of a careful process required under Hawai‘i law to address technical aspects of the CSO's removal and the restoration of its site, including a detailed review of the potential cultural and environmental impacts. The CDUP sets the terms and conditions Caltech must follow during the decommissioning. Copies of the CDUP, the final environmental assessment, and other planning documents can be found at: http://www.cso.caltech.edu/wiki/cso/outreach/outreach.
A summary of CSO's contributions to astronomy and astronomical instrumentation is available at: http://www.cso.caltech.edu/wiki/cso/science/overview.