Lightning has knocked out the first large telescope ever built on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, and engineers are working to bring it back online. The University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter telescope has been out since the weekend of June 4-5, when tens of thousands of lightning flashes were recorded around the state.
The 41-year-old telescope is smaller than its more famous neighbors — including the twin Keck telescopes that have mirrors measuring 10 meters — about 32 feet — in diameter. But the pioneering machine was the first to show Mauna Kea has some of the world's best conditions for observing the skies.
In the early 1990s, astronomers used it to discover the existence of the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune home to large numbers of asteroid-sized bodies. Today, Pluto is commonly regarded as the largest known Kuiper Belt Object, not as the ninth planet. Repairs could have it back up within a day.
The islands have had an unusual number of thunderstorms recently. Observers generally record about seven thunderstorm days at Honolulu airport in a typical year. But they reported 28 between Nov. 1 and June 1. (TheRepublic)
"So we're more than four times normal for a year, and we haven't even gone the whole year yet," Robert Ballard, the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in Honolulu said.
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