Caltech Submillimeter Observatory Decommissioning to Restart

Hilo, Hawai‘i – April 10, 2024 – Caltech will resume the decommissioning of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) in mid-April.

“The CSO decommissioning is well underway. After a winter weather pause, we will resume the process,” said Caltech physics professor and CSO Director Sunil Golwala.

The next steps in the decommissioning include completing interior deconstruction and removal of the observatory dome. The foundation will be removed along with the cesspool, its remaining solid contents, and all underground utilities. The land will be restored consistent with the permits guiding the decommissioning. Cultural, construction, and archeological monitors will be present at all appropriate phases.

The decommissioning is expected to be finished this year.

“Once the decommissioning is complete, the site will be monitored for three years, primarily to document repopulation by flora and fauna,” Golwala stated.

The cost of deconstruction and site restoration is expected to exceed $4 million and is being funded primarily by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, while the removal of the telescope for reuse is being funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

More information on the decommissioning, including related planning documents, permits, and a list of contractors involved in the project, can be found here: here

The CSO came online in 1987 and was used by scientists at Caltech and other institutions, including almost 200 student and postdoctoral researchers, to open a new submillimeter window on the universe. A summary of CSO’s contributions to astronomy and astronomical instrumentation are available here.

About Caltech: Caltech is a world-renowned private science and engineering Institute located in Pasadena, California, that marshals some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges.

Photos of the decommissioning progress can be found here. Photos of the telescope removal can be found here. Video Footage of the Telescope removal can be found here.

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