Maunakea, Hawaiʻi – After a nearly two-month temporary suspension of telescope operations, the Maunakea Observatories are evaluating plans to gradually restart nightly science observations. This decision comes after Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige identified the Observatories as part of the state’s list of low-risk organizations and businesses that are safe to reopen.
Recognizing the gravity of public health concerns over the global health pandemic and placing the safety of staff as paramount importance, the Observatories will continue to follow all health guidelines from state and local officials. The phased approach will include restricting summit work to maximize social distancing.
“We are grateful to once again be able to conduct world-class science in our Hawaiʻi Island home,” said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory. “The Observatories are highly cognizant of the ‘new norm’ needed to resume operations. Ensuring we restart nighttime observations in the most safe, low-risk manner possible while continuing to bring the high-impact astronomical science that Hawaiʻi is known for across the globe is our top priority.”
Beyond the proposed restart of normal operations, the Observatories will continue community-driven initiatives created and led while science observations were paused. MKO@Home, the Observatories’ virtual education program, will continue to deliver videos, live events, learning materials and activities as science operations ramp up in the coming weeks.
“During this time of physical distancing, we’ve been grateful to provide remote learning resources and promote STEM education through MKO@Home,” said Mary Beth Laychak, strategic communications director at the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope. “We plan to continue this program for the students, teachers and families who still face uncertainty in the months to come.”
Deeply committed to the Hawaiʻi Island community, the Observatories provided personnel and operational resources from the telescopes to support the members of the community adversely affected by COVID-19. On-going efforts include supporting several food distribution networks and helping provide PPE for healthcare and essential workers.
“We are conscious of the responsibility we have to our neighbors, not just in the context of COVID-19, but always,” said Rich Matsuda, chief of operations at W.M. Keck Observatory. “We are here to partner, support and collaborate in ways big and small so that our community can be resilient.”
About the Maunakea Observatories
The Maunakea Observatories are a collaboration of independent institutions with telescopes located on Maunakea on the Island of Hawai’i. Together, the Observatories make Maunakea the most scientifically productive site for astronomy world-wide. The Maunakea Observatories include: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope, Gemini International Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (EAO), NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Subaru Telescope, Submillimeter Array, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, University of Hawai’i Hilo Educational Telescope, University of Hawai’i 2.2 Meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array, W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II telescopes).
To learn more, visit: www.maunakeaobservatories.org