Well it finally happened: SCUBA’s successor, SCUBA-2 has been installed on the JCMT in Hawaii. SCUBA stands for Submillimetre Common-User Bolometer Array and the original was a ground breaking instrument that finally allowed astronomers to probe the depths of star-forming regions and distant galaxies. SCUBA-2 will more of the same and then some.
SCUBA-2 can scan the sky much faster than SCUBA and will allow researchers to measure the properties of protoplanetary disks around young stars, amongst other things. Exciting stuff. It is however very big.
Whereas SCUBA was comparable to a hefty water-heater, SCUBA-2 is more like a minivan. Mostly this is because of the cryostat that is required to keep the technology inside SCUBA-2 at a very low temperature. This technology has been developed principally in Edinburgh but also in Cardiff as well a few other places.
I saw SCUBA-2 in Edinburgh in 2006 and noted its large size at the time. When I observed at the JCMT last November (2007) I asked how on Earth they intended to get the the very expensive SCUBA-2 inside the very expensive JCMT without damaging either. The answer gave was that it would be tricky, and now thanks to a series of photos from April 2nd and 3rd I know what they meant.