Caltech Submillimeter Observatory Buildings Removed

Hilo, Hawai‘i – May 31, 2024 – The decommissioning of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) has made significant progress after restarting late April, with removal of the telescope dome and other buildings now complete.

“Due to high winds and stormy weather in early May, we had to temporarily pause work and secure the site at various times, but we completed removal of the telescope dome and other buildings on May 30, 2024,” said Caltech physics professor and CSO Director Sunil Golwala.

With the buildings now removed from the site, the next steps will be to remove the concrete foundations, pavement, underground utilities, and cesspool. The restoration phase will proceed following the completion of that work. The land will be restored consistent with the permits guiding the decommissioning. Cultural, construction, and archeological monitors will continue to be present at all appropriate phases.

The decommissioning is expected to be completed by the end of year. Once finished, Caltech will monitor the site for three years to document repopulation by flora and fauna.

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.

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