Monday, October 16, 2006

Hawaiian telescope damage

I received some emails from friends about the status of the Keck Observatory's twin telescopes, the world's largest telescope. They are located about 30 or 40 miles east of the epicenter of yesterday's magnitude 6.7 earthquake, on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The mirrors do not appear to be damaged, but there are some (probably minor) problems with the telescopes. The telescopes had restraints in case of an earthquake, but the shaking may have exceeded those limits. The telescope also uses an "encoder" to tell where it is pointed on the sky, and this encoder is out of whack. All of the instruments seem to be okay, though the electronics reported a little bit of overheating. In short, the telescopes are probably offline for a few days to a week, but the engineers seem confident all can be fixed.

Most importantly, nobody was hurt. The main buildings in the town of Waimea suffered some cosmetic damage, but are otherwise okay.

I haven't heard anything about other telescopes, but I would be surprised if they were not in similar condition.

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