The University of Hawaii plans to decommission a third observatory and remove it from Mauna Kea, according to a Wednesday press release from the university.

The UKIRT Observatory, formerly known as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, began operating in 1979. The university described the observatory as “highly productive” and said it has facilitated “orbital debris studies, observation and cataloging of Near-Earth objects and world-leading astronomical survey projects.”

University spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said the decommissioning of three observatories fulfills Gov. David Ige’s request for the university to remove one-fourth of the 13 observatories from the summit of Mauna Kea in response to protests against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The University of Hawaii plans to decommission the UKIRT Observatory, formerly known as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.

The University of Hawaii plans to decommission the UKIRT Observatory, formerly known as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.

Courtesy of the University of Hawaii

The 2009 Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan also encourages the decommissioning of some telescopes. Meisenzahl said the decommissioning process may take up to three years per observatory.

“UH is fulfilling itʻs promise to take several telescopes down from the mountain,” University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy director Guenther Hasinger said in the press release. “You can imagine for us as scientists this is very hard thing but this has to be done.”

The decommissioning process has already begun for the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and UH Hilo’s Hoku Kea telescope. According to the university, the process includes a “environmental due diligence review, deconstruction and removal plan, site restoration plan and remedial action plan if necessary.”

“No new observatories will be built on the three sites,” the press release said. However, Meisenzahl said a portable teaching telescope may replace Hoku Kea.

Click here to read the full press release.

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