Subaru 8-meter telescope damaged by leaking coolant

Jul 06, 2011 By Nancy Atkinson
Orange-colored coolant covers the mirror surface of the Subaru Telescope. Credit: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

A "serious hardware incident" has shut down the Subaru Telescope indefinitely. A leak allowed orange-colored coolant to spill over the primary mirror and into the main camera, as well as into other instruments and the structure of the telescope. The damage is still be assessed. During the clean-up and recovery of equipment, nighttime observations have been suspended, as well as daytime summit tours of the telescope.

An announcement posted on the website said that operators detected an error signal while shutting down the observation system at the end of the night shift during the early morning of Saturday, July 2, 2011.

When engineers arrived to assess the situation, they found extensive leakage of coolant (ethylene glycol) over most of the entire . The leak originated from the “top unit” of the telescope, which is located at the center of the top ring and includes the Subaru Prime Focus Camera (Suprime-Cam) and auxiliary optics.

Although they promptly shut off the supply of coolant, a significant amount of leakage had already occurred, from the top unit itself down to the tertiary mirror, the and some of its actuators, the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS, a Cassegrain instrument) and its auxiliary optics, and the telescope floor.

The engineers attempted to clean up and remove as much coolant as possible. However, such areas as optics, control circuits, and the inside of Suprime-Cam and FOCAS were inaccessible during the initial clean-up.

The coolant consists of a mixture of water and , a liquid commonly used in a vehicle’s radiator for cooling. The is not corrosive and does not damage the primary mirror, which has a foundation of glass.

The Subaru Telescope is located on the Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, with offices in the town of Hilo. The Subaru website said they will post updates on the status of the telescope and its recovery.

Explore further: SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lasers spectacular

Jun 10, 2011

The new laser on the Keck I telescope has inspired two avid Mauna Kea photographers to capture the light show in a series of stunning images and videos. We’ve collected some of their work here for your ...

A Fresh Look at Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Apr 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New, ground-breaking thermal images obtained with powerful ground-based telescopes show swirls of warmer air and cooler regions never seen before within Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

Recommended for you

SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

6 hours ago

The SpaceX company returned to orbit Friday, launching fresh supplies to the International Space Station after more than a month's delay and setting the stage for urgent spacewalking repairs.

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

7 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

9 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

9 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

12 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
4 / 5 (4) Jul 06, 2011
I'm so sorry for the scientists who had scheduled time in the following weeks. I hope there's no long-term damage, and they get it fixed soon.

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...