Maui News

PROPOSED TELESCOPE EIS RELEASED: SCIENTISTS SAY HALEAKALA IS ONLY SITE TO SATISFY GOALS

May 13, 2009, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated May 13, 12:04 PM
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The State completed work on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on a planned Advanced Technology Solar Telescope atop Haleakala.  The project is proposed for location at the High Altitude Observatory site and is subject to a 45 day public comment period.  There will be a series of hearings to discuss the findings in June.  The first meeting is set for June 3rd at 5 p.m. at the Cameron Center Auditorium.  The Maui site is the preferred location under consideration by the National Science Foundation.

Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site Aerial Showing Existing Facilities.  Photo Courtesy:  National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health

Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site Aerial Showing Existing Facilities. Photo Courtesy: National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health

The proposed ATST Project would be located on State of Hawai’i land within the Conservation District on Pu’u (hill) Kolekole, near the summit of Haleakalā. Pu’u Kolekole is about 0.3 mile from the highest point, Pu’u Ula’ula (Red Hill) Overlook, which is in HALE. At an elevation of 10,023 feet, Haleakalā is one of the prime sites in the world for astronomical and space surveillance activities. The proposed ATST Project would be located within the 18.166-acre HO site at the summit of Haleakalā, County of Maui, Hawai’i, on approximately 0.86 acres of undeveloped land. The 0.86 acres includes the leveling area, buildings, and paved pads. The preferred site is east of the existing C. E. Kenneth Mees Solar Observatory (MSO) and will be referred to in the SDEIS as the Mees site. The alternative site would be a currently unutilized site within HO known as Reber Circle and will be referred to in the SDEIS as the Reber Circle site.

In 1961, an Executive Order (EO) by Governor Quinn set aside 18.166 acres of land on the summit of Haleakalā in a place known as Kolekole to be under the control and management of the UH Institute for Astronomy (IfA) for scientific purposes.

Officials say an unobstructed 4-meter (13-foot) diameter primary mirror combined with the latest in computer and optical technologies would give ATST sharper views of solar activities than any telescope on the ground, in space, or in the planning stages. After a two-year study that began with more than 70 possible worldwide observatory sites, the NSO team, in collaboration with representatives from the solar physics scientific community, found that Haleakalā is the only site satisfying their ATST science goals.

ATST Test Tower at Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site.  Photo Courtesy:  National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health

ATST Test Tower at Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site. Photo Courtesy: National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health

A primary goal of the proposed ATST Project would be to help scientists understand the solar magnetic activities and variability that drive space weather and the hazards it creates for astronauts and air travelers, and for communications to and from satellites.

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Another primary objective for the proposed ATST Project would be to resolve fundamental length and time scales of the basic physical processes governing variations in solar activity associated with climate changes on Earth. To meet this challenge, a team led by the NSO is developing the proposed ATST Project as the world’s largest optical solar telescope.

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NEPA 45-day Public Comment Period and Hearings: May 8 to June 22, 2009.

  • 1. June 3, 2009, Wednesday, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Cameron Center Auditorium, Wailuku, Maui, HI
  • 2. June 4, 2009, Thursday, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Hannibal Tavares Community Center, Room MHT #1, Pukalani, Maui, HI

National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 consultation meetings:

  • 1. June 8, 2009, Monday, 1:00 to 4:00 pm Kula Community Center, E. Lower Kula Road, Kula, Maui
  • 2. June 9, 2009, Tuesday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Haiku Community Center, Hana Highway at Pilialoha Street, Haiku, Maui
  • 3. June 10, 2009, Wednesday, 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Maui Community College, 310 W. Kaahumanu Ave., Pilina Building – Multi-purpose Room, Kahului
Current View of HO from Pu‘u Ula‘ula.  Photo Courtesy:  National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health

Current View of HO from Pu‘u Ula‘ula. Photo Courtesy: National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health

(Posted by Wendy OSHER © 2009; Photos Courtesy: National Science Foundation & Hawaii Department of Health)

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