15 October 2006 – Status of UKIRT Post-Earthquake

15 October 2006 – Status of UKIRT Post-Earthquake

UPDATE – 27-Oct-2006 HST

Confirmation that UKIRT is now operating well in Wide Field mode, no further adjustments having been necessary.

UPDATE – 24-Oct-2006 HST

UKIRT operated successfully on the final night of its Cassegrain block, which finished on Sunday 22-Oct-2006. It is now shutdown for installation of the Wide-field camera WFCAM, which will occupy the telescope for the coming 6 months. There are no apparent ongoing problems relating to the earthquake and, pending pointing and wavefront tests with WFCAM, we hope that this will be the final update on this page. Many thanks to all those who have enquired and checked in here.

UPDATE – 18-Oct-2006 HST

Weather has held off for the start of the night and a pointing test has been completed. A simple analysis of the results suggests that the telescope has (at least) rotated around an approximately vertical axis by about one arcminute, or approximately 2mm at each column. All three Cassegrain instruments are now operable.

UPDATE  –  17-Oct-206 HST

The weather is still not allowing us to open and check pointing. CGS4 and UFTI are now both operational and UIST is approaching its operating temperature. A small aftershock of 4th magnitude was felt this morning but the telescope shear pins remained intact. Estimates of the magnitude of the Sunday earthquakes are creeping upwards – the main quake is now 6.7 and the first aftershock was 6.0.

UPDATE  –  16-Oct-2006 HST

Two significant earthquakes registering 6.6 and 5.8 struck the islands between 0700-0730hrs on Sunday 15 October. There were a number of aftershocks. The epicenter was a few miles off the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii (west of Kailua-Kona for those with knowledge of the region).

Hilo Office

The Hilo office is functioning normally. It was inspected on Sunday and there is no apparent structural damage. 


An observing run at UKIRT had ended an hour or so before the quake and the observers were back at Hale Pohaku. Due to having worked split night shifts, they were able to return to the telescope to conduct some initial visual inspections but there was no power at the summit between the time of the quake and about 1430hrs (some 7 hrs in total) so further inspections were not possible. 

Engineering inspections took place today and the mechanical systems have been tested with no apparent faults or damage.  The computer systems are also up and running. Of the three instruments, one (CGS4) is working, the other two are cooling down steadily and UFTI should be available by second half of tonight. Provisionally, UKIRT is operational pending the results of on-sky pointing and other tests which will be done as soon as the weather permits.


JCMT was being operated remotely on Sat/Sun and the TSS was at Hale Pohaku when the quake struck. He was unable to go back to the summit (without exceeding the 14 hour limit) so the visual checks were conducted by the UKIRT observers. In similar circumstance to UKIRT (no power etc), it was decided that further inspection would take place on Monday 16 October.

That inspection work has now completed and there appear to be no mechanical damage or faults.  The computers are up and running and, weather permitting (there is now a storm coming in!), the telescope will be opened and exercised tonight. Closed-dome tests so far indicate that the systems are all functional.

JAC Staff

There have been no reports of any injuries to staff or serious loss or damage to homes or property.  

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