Author Topic: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(  (Read 407 times)

tidutamar

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I recently got to go to Mauna Kea, also has been head over heals excited to see Jupiter and Saturn through the 16" LX200 and EdgeHD 14" they have there, however, had been met with equal disappointment in the state of corrosion of the kindness.

The 16" LX200 has what I can only explain as pit marks from its own corrector plate.  Not only stains, but full on bullet marks.  The optics look damaged.  The quantity of dust around the secondary and primary mirrors has been significant.  The EdgeHD 14 was similarly bad shape, as was the C9.25.

The collimation of this EdgeHD 14 was way off.  I couldn't get Jupiter's moons to focus to points.  They simply looked like cones.  The comparison reduction due to the scatter and bad collimation was so poor I had difficulty seeing Jupiter's rings clearly.  Similar problems with all the C9.25 on Saturn.  The opinion was very soft and very "glowy" despite my greatest focusing attempts and stone steady skies.

It disturbs me to my core to see such beautiful (and expensive!)  Tools in the condition they are in



compstifcolpai

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2017, 02:14:03 AM »
That is disappointing to hear. A year ago my family and I went to the summit of Muana Kea and toured the Subaru Telescope. We stopped at the rest station on the way for about an hour to get acclimated to the altitude and I remember seeing all of those telescopes. At the time I thought it would be great to come back at night and observe with those instruments but now it sounds like I would have been in for a real let down.

ocgisfulctel

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2017, 01:41:57 PM »
So who's in charge of these scopes there? Does the operator of them know how to collimate SCTs? Were you able to talk to them there about some of the issues, etc?? Seems at least if nothing else, they could be--and should be--kept in decent collimation at least. Cleaning the dust off the mirrors and/or replacing the pitted corrector plates would probably require a trip to the factory for them, if no one there is capable of taking them apart to clean the optics, etc.

Does sound sad/depressing.

ardrivunla

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2018, 07:23:26 PM »
i am truly sorry for your bad experience, what a sad statement for and observitory to have its public equipment in and im sure its probably paid for with our tax dollars and donations. hope you brought this to their attention. if you go back I wish you clear skies and clear optics, lets make it clear again

glen larkin

Deandre Fulce

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2018, 02:38:35 AM »
Those scopes get used so much for their night programs. However, it does seem that they need someone to actually due the maintenance on these systems rather than just know how to operate them.

James Etrheim

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2018, 06:19:38 AM »
Sad to hear. How disappointing it must be for the public, not knowing what they could be seeing, but instead are probably leaving with poor expectations of amateur astronomy.

David Washington

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2018, 04:50:25 AM »
Note to self: bring a small screwdriver and a hex key set next time you get to MK ... I remember "owning" the c14 for one night  , of course, I didn't know 0.1% of what I know now, otherwise it would have been a great night ...

circlemisde

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2018, 11:16:19 AM »
Hi, me again, perhaps you--CrazyPanda--could draft a letter to the operator/owner of the MK public obs facility there to send to them, outlining some of the issues you found w/ their various scopes there--and asking that they look into correcting the issues in the near future, for the public's benefit? You could also offer to provide them further advice (like instructions for collimating an SCT, etc.), and/or offer to assist them in obtaining information on how and where toget the pitted corrector plates replaced, etc. Perhaps they're totally in the dark--literally!--on all the problems w/ the scopes and how to fix them?!

Anyhow, good luck--hope someone there will realize/appreciate the situation and do something about it soon! If money is an issue, maybe they could just bring one of the scopes up to speed each year for the next 3 yrs, etc? Again, hope something and someone will take an interest in this and get the ball rolling on resolving the issues!

Mark Rivera

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2018, 11:17:11 AM »
I was there in February—to say that I was disappointed was an understatement.

In addition to the optics being beyond worn beyond repair, the docents were nowhere to be seen. Long lines of tourists patiently waited to look through telescopes, only to be frustrated because they didn't know where to look (eyepiece). Even if they did find the eyepiece, sometimes the object had drifted. Even if the object was centered, they had no idea what they were looking at. It was an huge missed opportunity to do public education.

When I politely grabbed a docent to realign one of the telescopes, he took it offline instead...saying it would take an hour to go through the realignment process. Now, we just know that's not true. He asked another docent to put a front cap on the scope, who replied, "Why don't you do it? You're closer."

The amount of disfunction is astounding. It's clear that they are overwhelmed by the general public, but I can't imagine that they can't find a good number of amateur astronomers who would relish the opportunity to build a fantastic, informative night sky program.

Trendsetters Branch

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2018, 05:05:23 AM »
Stephan James O'Meara wrote in his books how bad his TV refractor were after observingsome years at Hawaii's vulcanic enviroment. Maybe the "dirt" on the telescopesis because of the volcanic eruptions, dust and gases. But out of collimation is something else of course.

John Jefner

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2018, 11:34:52 PM »
I just sent a link to this thread to the people in charge at the MKVIS.

Don

Ethan Gechem

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2018, 12:01:23 AM »
Quote
Stephan James O'Meara wrote in his books how bad his TV refractor were after observingsome years at Hawaii's vulcanic enviroment. Maybe the "dirt" on the telescopesis because of the volcanic eruptions, dust and gases. But out of collimation is something else of course.


I'm guessing, but I suspect he did a lot of observing closer to the active volcanic regions since that was another passion of his.I would expect that to be quite hard on the optics/coatings over time, even to an attentive owner aware of the problems. The VOG can be quite aggressive (I have actually had the acidic droplets burn my skin after falling from the plume formed where the lava entered the ocean), but I wouldn't expect it to pose much of an issue on Mauna Kea.

revekosque

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2018, 02:07:08 AM »
Wow! I don't care what excuses they come up with, that's pretty lame and disgusting to be so careless with those telescopes.

Jason Bryant

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2018, 03:20:18 AM »
Quote
i am truly sorry for your bad experience, what a sad statement for and observitory to have its public equipment in and im sure its probably paid for with our tax dollars and donations. hope you brought this to their attention. if you go back I wish you clear skies and clear optics, lets make it clear againglen larkin
From what I saw, at least the EdgeHD and LX200 were donated directly from Celestron and Meade. So at least those scopes weren't purchased.
Quote
Stephan James O'Meara wrote in his books how bad his TV refractor were after observingsome years at Hawaii's vulcanic enviroment. Maybe the "dirt" on the telescopesis because of the volcanic eruptions, dust and gases. But out of collimation is something else of course.
Yes, there is *considerable* wind up there. I would certainly not want to bring a Dobsonian because you will either end up with a dusty mirror after 10 minutes, or the shroud will act like a giant sail.

Jeremy Swaine

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Re: The condition of the public telescopes at Mauna Kea hurts my soul :(
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2018, 07:05:50 AM »
Hi everyone.

Besides being a mod here on Cloudy Nights I am also a consulting observatory engineer over here on the Big Island of Hawaii. MKSS (Mauna Kea Support Serices) has contacted me and I have signed a contract to maintain the telescopes at the Onizuka VIS (Visitor Information Station) starting in September of this year. I have been volunteering at the VIS off and on over the past 10 years and maintained/repaired their scopes off-and-on over that time, depending on who they had on staff and what help they needed. I am not an employee of MKSS and don't have any direct control over the VIS scopes or their operations. However they do ask my constructive opinions at times about various subjects related to the astro gear and the VIS outreach programs. I always do my best to give them honest, respectful and useful answers. I do not give them unsolicited advice.

It is important to be aware that the VIS staff has had a pretty stressful time over the past three years.

The controversy over the 30 Meter Telescope (TMT) has caused massive turmoil and stress for everyone who works on the mountain. And unfortunately the VIS is the location that the protester's chose to make their sustained stand against telescopes on their sacred mountain. More than one poor hapless VIS employee has been cornered by one or more hulking activists and shouted at and threatened while being covered in spittle. This has understandably resulted in a huge turnover of VIS staff. Including the VIS manager. Many of the current staff are very green and most of them don't know much about astronomy or telescopes. Please don't hold this against them. Most are university students. Those that hang in there will learn a lot about astronomy and telescopes. Most will be stressed out and quit before that happens.

To make matters even more difficult for MKSS employees and the VIS in general, Hawaii's politicians have been pandering to the activists (a very tiny minority of people) and throwing MKSS and astronomy in Hawaii under the wheels of the bus. Hawaii's governor has been described as an invertebrate. He offered to tear four telescopes off the summit to make the protester's happy. The protesters replied that they don't care about four existing telescopes. Just about new ones. The governor has inexplicably chosen not to withdraw his offer of destroying four telescopes. Word is that he also delivered undisclosed mandates to UofH, OMKM, MKSS and DLNR that they cannot respond to threats or accusations by the protesters. Morale is very low in many areas on the mountain.

On top of this, there were several very close calls where visitors descending from the summit overheated their brakes and lost control of their rental cars. They went flying past the VIS at high speed, barely missing a large number of pedestrians and then flying off the road and crashing below the VIS. Serious injuries but no deaths this time, thank goodness. (EDIT: There was one death.) These two incidents were only about a week apart. This caused an urgent mandate to be issued by MKSS upper management to improve the safety of visitors around the VIS. Consequently parking across the road from the VIS was closed and all parking was reallocated to the same side of the road as the VIS. With a sudden reallocation of fixed budgetary funds going to expensive roadway safety upgrades, the stargazing program was temporarily-cut from 7 days a week to four. Other sacrifices were made as well. A number of vacant staff positions were left unfilled indefinitely.

On top of all this, the VIS manager who chose to re-retire and go back to kayaking was fiercely missed. Many of the staff felt very betrayed seeing his departure and blamed MKSS upper management. When a new manager was hired, the staff would not accept her because of their anger. She has had a rather rough time of it accordingly. Things will likely calm down over time, depending on what the protesters do next and how the politicians choose to react (or not.)

During all of this chaos and stress, the outreach programs, volunteer docent programs, telescopes and other astro gear at the VIS has not had a very high priority. I think this is perfectly understandable and I would suggest patience, understanding and support while this high-powered political drama plays out.

In September I will begin working on the scopes and attempting to get them as good as they can be, once again. Note that these scopes have received massive amounts of wear and tear over the years. The Mauna Kea VIS is the most popular astronomy outreach destination on planet earth. IIRC the number of visitors last year was something like 200,000+. And the VIS wasn't originally built to be an outreach facility. It has lots of quirks and deficiencies (as we all know) but a new facility has been talked about and being pushed for many years. So far the right people in the lofty ivory towers haven't seen the light.

So please don't bash the hapless staff or offer to fix the scopes for them. They don't know you and what you might be capable of and don't want the responsibility if something goes wrong. This is understandable.

If you really, desperately want to help fix their scopes, I will be there the first and third Thursday afternoons starting in September. If you contact me in advance that you will be on the island, I will invite you to join me when I work on the scopes. One other thing you can do is make a deductible monetary contribution to the VIS for telescope gear and repairs. Another is to become a docent. Even if you only volunteer once a year, your contribution will be appreciated. Last year's "volunteer of the year" lives in Connecticut and comes over to the Big Island once a year and volunteers at the VIS for a week.

There are also a lot of hard core amateur astronomers here on the Big Island. My biggest scope is a Meade 16" LX200GPS and three of my neighbors have bigger scopes than I do! If you join the WHAC or HawiianAstronomy Yahoo groups and announce your Big Island travel plans well in advance, it isn't very hard to catalyze a spontaneous club star party. All it usually takes is financing an island sacrifice of pizza, soft drinks and Hawaiian pu-pu's. I have a friend with a 24" Starmaster GOTO Dob with a laser-sharp Zambuto mirror that will bring tears to your eyes. This would be greatly superior to battling the masses and their camera flashes and flashlights at the VIS any day.

If anyone has any questions about anything I have said, please feel free to ask.

P.S. - I made a few corrections above where I used the acronym OMKM when I meant to type MKSS.