Caltech Submillimeter Observatory

Radio telescope Interferometry Astronomical interferometer
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Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
Caltech-CSO-telescope (fix).jpg
Location(s)Hawaii County, Hawaii
Coordinates19°49′21″N 155°28′34″W / 19.8225°N 155.476°W / 19.8225; -155.476Coordinates: 19°49′21″N 155°28′34″W / 19.8225°N 155.476°W / 19.8225; -155.476 Edit this at Wikidata
OrganizationCalifornia Institute of Technology Edit this on Wikidata
Altitude13,570 ft (4,140 m) Edit this at Wikidata
Wavelength1,300, 350 μm (230, 860 GHz)
Built–1985 Edit this on Wikidata (–1985 Edit this on Wikidata) Edit this at Wikidata
First light1986 Edit this on Wikidata
Decommissioned2015 Edit this on Wikidata
Telescope styleradio telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Diameter10.4 m (34 ft 1 in) Edit this at Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
Caltech Submillimeter Observatory is located in Hawaii
Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
Location of Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
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The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) was a 10.4-meter (34 ft) diameter submillimeter wavelength telescope situated alongside the 15-meter (49 ft) James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) at Mauna Kea Observatories. It was engaged in submillimetre astronomy, of the terahertz radiation band. The telescope closed on September 18, 2015. As of April 2019, the telescope is set to be dismantled and its site remediated in the near future as part of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan.[1]


In 1986, the CSO obtained official "first light" by producing a spectrum of the carbon monoxide J=2-1 line from the nearby starburst galaxy Messier 82 (although continuum detections of the Moon and some planets had been made earlier).

Throughout its lifetime, the CSO tended to emphasize heterodyne receiver work, while the neighboring James Clerk Maxwell Telescope emphasized continuum detector observations. Over 100 students from 25 institutions used the CSO for doctoral research projects[2].

The CSO and JCMT were combined to form the first submillimeter interferometer. The success of this experiment was important in pushing ahead the construction of the Submillimeter Array and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array interferometers.

The last observation from the telescope was made on 8 September 2015, and was of Orion KL.[3]


In order to get a permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea, the University of Hawaii had to commit to closing and dismantling three existing observatories on the mountain. The three chosen were the CSO, the UKIRT, and the Hoku Keʻa telescope.[1] Two additional telescopes must also be removed by 2033, but those have not been selected as of 1 April 2019.[4]

On April 30, 2009, Caltech announced plans to decommission the CSO, transferring ongoing research to the next-generation Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope (CCAT) in Chile. The plans called for CSO to be dismantled, beginning in 2016, with its site returned to a natural state by 2018.[5] Delays in the environmental assessment and permitting processes have led to postponement of the telescope removal. On 24 January 2019, Robert McLaren, the interim Director of the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy, gave an update to state lawmakers and suggested the permitting will be accomplished in 2019 with dismantling and removal taking a year or less.[4]

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Third Maunakea observatory set for decommissioning". University of Hawaii News. University of Hawaii. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  2. ^
  3. ^ McGuire, Brett A.; Carroll, P. Brandon (31 October 2017). "The Final Integrations of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory". Research Notes of the AAS. 1 (1): 4. arXiv:1711.09145. Bibcode:2017RNAAS...1a...4M. doi:10.3847/2515-5172/aa9657. ISSN 2515-5172.
  4. ^ a b "VIDEO: Update On Taking Telescopes Off Mauna Kea". Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  5. ^ "Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii to be Decommissioned" (Press release). April 30, 2009. Archived from the original on June 10, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2010.