Monday, March 30, 2020

Hawaiian Telescope Issue "Eclipsed" by Coronavirus

The observatories on Mauna Kea have shut down their operations in response to Gov. David Ige’s stay-at-home order aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

This is the second time in less than a year the world-class science produced by the dozen or so observatories atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain have ground to a halt.

The first time was last summer at the beginning of the protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope, when Mauna Kea Access Road was blocked and deemed unsafe to travel for nearly four weeks.

“It’s deja vu,” said Doug Simons, director of Canada- France-Hawaii Telescope. “We know the drill.”

Like last summer, the latest shutdown will affect more than 500 technicians, astronomers, instrument scientists, engineers and support staff who work at both the summit and the observatory bases down below.

Most of the work is federally funded and therefore few, if any, employees will be laid off or furloughed for the time being, Simons said.

The largest impact will be on the science. Last year’s monthlong shutdown interrupted hundreds of observing programs run by scientists from around the world and affected about 100 scientific publications that would have used Mauna Kea-generated data...

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