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State to fund UH telescope, but not on Mauna Kea

  • Associated Press / 2009
    The 13 telescopes in place on the summit of Mauna Kea

HILO >> The University of Hawaii at Hilo is getting $450,000 from the state to purchase a replacement for a soon-to-be decommissioned telescope on Mauna Kea.

Hoku Kea, the 0.9-meter observatory, was inoperable when it was delivered and efforts to repair it have been unsuccessful, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Gov. David Ige asked for the removal of some telescopes on the mountain as a result of protests that stalled construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. UH announced in July that Hoku Kea would be decommissioned, and officials say the removal is likely to begin by 2016.

Faculty members say state lawmakers will not remove funding allocated for Hoku Kea’s replacement as long as the new telescope is installed elsewhere.

Hoku Kea director and assistant astronomy professor Pierre Martin says the new 0.7-meter teaching telescope will likely be delivered next summer.

He said he plans to make the facility available to high school students as well.

“Our mission, our vision has not changed at all,” he said. “This is what we want to do. But we need the tools to do that.”

Martin said the new Hoku Kea will be installed at UH-Hilo if officials can’t find another site, but the area’s cloudy conditions pose a challenge.

“It’s sad because this (Mauna Kea) is the best place, but we cannot do it,” Martin said.

Martin said students will be able to use the new telescope and 18-foot-wide dome to practice technical skills, like installing equipment and instruments.

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