Revitalizing of the Maui Space Surveillance System


June 22, 2012

Only a few places in the world offer as clear a view of the night sky as the 10,023 foot summit of Haleakala. Not only is the sky subject to very limited particle pollution and light pollution, but at such an elevation, the natural atmosphere is thin, providing less visual interference than you’d find at sea level.

For decades, the observatories atop Haleakala have been an everyday sight for those who call Maui home. That being said, many don’t know much about what’s going on up there. The observatories are home to the Maui Space Surveillance System, which takes advantage of the low atmospheric interference, which allows 90 mile visibility. The observatory has discovered numerous asteroids, and allows data collection of both near Earth and deep space objects. The Advanced Electro-Optical System, a 3.67 meter telescope is the largest optical telescope in the US designed for tracking satellites.

The federal government has just finished a $30 million dollar, three-year modernization project at the facility. The funds went into a major rejuvenating effort, covering everything from floor repair to new computers to an upgrade for the Advanced Electro-Optical System. The latter was executed by Boeing Co. With these improvements, the Space Surveillance System will continue to collect important data.

As for the mountain itself, Haleakala is a treasure to the scientific community, and to stargazers from around the island, and around the world. Visitors come from far and wide to see the night sky, the sun rise, and the sunset on their Maui vacations. The strange beauty of the Crater is an added bonus to the uniqueness of the mountain, and of Maui.

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