Mauna Kea gets new telescope today
By Peter Sur
HILO — Mauna Kea's newest, smallest telescope should reach the summit today.
A flatbed truck carrying Hoku Kea was scheduled to leave Hilo early this morning for the three-hour trip to the site of the former University of Hawaii-Hilo 24-inch telescope.
Then, after workers uncrate the telescope, a large crane will hoist the two major parts, one at a time, into the observatory dome, weather permitting. Final assembly will take place within the telescope enclosure.
"If the winds are high, we'll postpone," said principal investigator Bill Heacox, who was on the summit yesterday morning overseeing the installation of the telescope's base plate.
There should be no traffic delays caused by the transport of the shipping crates, he said.
Winds are expected to be about 15 to 30 mph today, but because of the unique topography of the summit there's no way of determining in advance how the winds will be at the site. "The only way to really tell is to go ahead and see," he said. "If the winds aren't right we'll go home and come back a day after."
The telescope is now in two major parts, Heacox said — the base and the tube that holds the 36-inch main mirror. Fully assembled and pointed straight up, it stands 18 feet tall, with about a foot of clearance beneath the new dome.
Testing will take about a month, and if everything checks out UH-Hilo will take ownership of the telescope from manufacturer Equinox Interscience.
Hoku Kea, named after the Hawaiian name for the Southern Cross constellation, has a primary mirror 3 feet across, replacing the obsolete 2-foot diameter mirror in the previous telescope.
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