Telescope exterior near a building
Rendering of proposed teaching telescope

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) on its proposal to locate the school’s 28-inch educational telescope at Halepōhaku, the mid-level facility on Maunakea, is available for public review and comment.

The proposed project includes a 14-foot high, 18-foot diameter dome that will house the teaching telescope. The dome will be placed on a yet to be constructed wooden deck that will connect to an existing building at Halepōhaku.

Astronomer working with telescope
The proposed project includes a 14-foot high, 18-foot diameter dome that will house the telescope

A DEA is required by the Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources for astronomy facilities placed within the state conservation district, and it is triggered by the use of state land and funds. The DEA for the UH Hilo teaching telescope anticipates a finding of no significant impact. The deadline to provide comments on the DEA is October 24. The official State of Hawaiʻi, Office of Planning and Sustainable Development notice includes instructions on how to provide comments, which will be considered during the preparation of the final environmental assessment.

“We hope our local community takes some time to learn more about the teaching telescope and how it will benefit not only UH Hilo students, but the entire island,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin. “I am especially excited for the programming ideas that we have for the community at large to utilize the telescope.”

More information at October 5 Open House

The public can learn more about the project at an open house on the UH Hilo campus on the first floor of the Science and Technology Building on Wednesday, October 5 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. It will include presentations by UH Hilo astronomy faculty and SSFM International Inc. SSFM will discuss its findings listed in the DEA. Topics will include proposed educational programs, such as culture-based STEM curriculum courses for local elementary, middle and high school students along with research opportunities for UH Hilo students. The public will also be able to see the telescope, which is currently housed inside the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building.

Decommissioning of former telescope site

The former site of the UH Hilo teaching telescope on the summit of Maunakea is now undergoing decommissioning that is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

When the university submitted a Notice to Proceed in 2016 to decommission the site, more than a dozen community members testified before the Maunakea Management Board (MKMB) and complained about removing the only teaching telescope on the mauna. MKMB ultimately accepted the Notice of Intent in 2021 when the plan to locate the teaching telescope at Halepōhaku was included in the decommissioning plan.

Outside on Maunakea
Halepōhaku, mid-level facility on Maunakea