MAUNAKEA, Hawaiʻi (March 25, 2020) –– The Maunakea Observatories have started a temporary suspension of telescope operations following Governor David Ige’s stay-at-home order issued March 23, 2020, aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. While scientific observations are on hold, the Maunakea Observatories have launched an innovative public outreach effort for K-12 students and families, providing remote learning resources from the observatories’ expert scientists, staff, and educators.
“The health and safety of our staff and community will always be our highest priority,” said Dr. Doug Simons, director of Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope. “As one of Hawaiʻi Islands’ largest employers, we understand the necessity of doing whatever we can to stunt the spread of COVID-19. That’s why our teams are staying home.”
The employees of the Maunakea Observatories — more than 500 technicians, astronomers, instrument scientists, engineers and support staff — will stay home, focused on work that can be advanced without in-person engagement at the summit or base facilities. In compliance with Governor Ige’s order any interaction at the facilities will be limited to emergency response, and essential functions, provided that social distancing requirements are maintained. Examples of emergency response could include response to fire alarms or power outages, or critical maintenance on the observatories’ delicate instruments to prevent damage and minimize loss of future research.
Recognizing the unprecedented need to convert in-person learning to a virtual environment, the Maunakea Observatories education and outreach teams are launching new pilot initiatives three times a week, designed to provide innovative multimedia STEM learning opportunities to students and families for the duration of the stay-at-home order and beyond. Available resources will include videos, live virtual engagement, downloadable materials and more. These resources will be available at www.maunakeaobservatories.org, https://www.facebook.com/MKOOC/ and the newly created Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee YouTube channel.
“We’re committed to supporting Hawaii with STEM distance learning, sparking students’ curiosity about the universe around us and inspiring them to push the boundaries of their imagination,” said Mary Beth Laychak, program lead for Maunakea Scholars and strategic communications director at the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope.
About 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 and W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II).