Pan-STARRS 2 expected to be operating in July

Work on the 1.8-meter Pan-STARRS 2 telescope atop Haleakala that will focus on near-Earth objects “has been going very well,” with the telescope expected to collect its first test images next month.

The contractor who retrofit the infrastructure of the old University of Tokyo Magnum observatory with precision and under the harsh conditions of altitude and climate of the summit announced Tuesday that its portion of the job that began in January was completed at the end of last month.

“We took our company to new limits in renovating the UH Institute for Astronomy’s observatory. This project had extremely tight tolerances and an aggressive schedule,” said Kevin Keller, project manager for Armstrong Pacific, in a news release. “Through innovative solutions, we completed the project on time and under budget.”

Keller said in an interview Tuesday that unlike most jobs there were “zero tolerances.” The anchor bolts and mechanical and electrical work “had to be perfect.” When the crane picked up the telescope, “it fit perfectly in place,” he said.

J. D. Armstrong, UH Institute for Astronomy Maui technology and outreach specialist, said that workers had “an interesting time” lifting the dome off the old observatory in order to put in the new telescope.

“The project has been going very well,” Armstrong said. “It just speaks to the capability of the people involved.”

The work is now focused on installing cables and software and calibrating things, he said.

The new telescope is expected to collect its first test images in July and achieve full operational capability in early 2014.

The general contractor retrofitted the existing observatory by installing a new mezzanine and hydraulic lift, reinforcing the structural steel and framework to meet earthquake building code standards, applying a new insulated skin to the reinforced steel structure, and upgrading all the mechanical and electrical systems that support the new telescope.

The working conditions presented challenges for the 30 workers on the project, Keller said.

The altitude affected workers, as did the cold, the rain and the sleet, he said. They had to work closely and communicate with cultural advisers. And there was the 1-hour, 45-minute one-way commute, he said.

Still, workers were able to complete the $2 million project on time and under budget, he said.

The addition of the Pan-STARRS 2 telescope next to the currently operating Pan-STARRS 1 telescope will create “by far the most powerful wide-field imaging system in existence,” said Nick Kaiser, principal investigator of Pan-STARRS at the UH Institute for Astronomy, earlier this year.

The Pan-STARRS design, developed at the IfA, involves a combination of relatively small mirrors with very large digital cameras that create a viewing system that can observe the entire sky several times each month, the website said. Astronomers get to visit the whole visible sky about 20 times a year – which makes it ideal for observing asteroids and other near-Earth objects.

The addition of Pan-STARRS 2 to Pan-STARRS 1, which went into operation in March 2009, will allow for doubling of the viewable light.

“We’ll be able to see fainter objects,” Armstrong said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at

* This article includes a correction from the original published on Sunday, June 23. 2013.