The dome of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, or ATST, the structure that will protect the future solar telescope, the world's most advanced instrument of its kind, is ready and will begin to be dismantled in the coming days for its shipment to Hawaii, where it will be installed by late 2015.
The new telescope will monitor the sun from the island of Maui in the Haleakala Observatory, located in a nature park at an altitude of 3,000 meters (some 9,840 feet) above sea level.
The telescope's dome was built at a cost of a little over $4.5 million by Spain's Gometegui and Hilfa equipment companies in a project headed by the IDOM engineering firm on the orders of the U.S. National Solar Observatory.
The dome was constructed in the town of Basauri and its opening can be positioned "with a precision of millimeters," Gaizka Murga, the head of astronomy at IDOM, told Efe.
"The domes of conventional telescopes are motionless, while the telescope follows the stars. This dome follows the telescope, making very, very slow (and) practically undetectable movements. It's something that the rest of the world's telescopes don't do," Murga said.
Construction on the "housing" containing the solar 'scope - which has a diameter of 26 meters (about 85 feet), stands 24 meters (79 feet) high and weighs 600 tons - began in northern Spain's Basque region in 2012.
Equipped with a primary mirror 4 meters (about 13 feet) in diameter, the telescope will allow astronomers to see details on the sun's surface that are only about 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide.
Now that it has been determined that it is working properly, the process of dismantling the 'scope and its dome will take two to three months after which all the equipment will be shipped to Hawaii.
Some 60 containers and three special shipments will be used to get the apparatus to its new location, and during the months of June and July it will travel by cargo ship to the United States.
It will be set up in Hawaii starting in October and that process will take some 15 months, Murga said.
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, or AURA, was the organization that gave IDOM the project in 2010.
AURA is a consortium of 39 institutions in the United States and six international affiliates that operates worldwide in different astronomical observatories. EFE