Aurora science station inventory being sold online

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Hundreds of items from an aurora science station outside Fairbanks are being auctioned off online.

UCLA mothballed the HIPAS Observatory in Two Rivers in 2008. The Los Angeles-based university operated the remote site for 30 years, gathering information on the aurora borealis and other research.

KTUU-TV reports that the Fairbanks Auction Co. is selling more than 1,600 items, including lasers, 1960s computers and telescopes.

Dismantling HIPAS has been a bittersweet task for site manager Ron Richards, a resident of Two Rivers. He finds his job exciting - and somewhat nostalgic.

"HIPAS really was good for the community," he said. "That part is sad to see it go. It employed, I think we figured, over 80 to 100 local people over that 30-year period."

Richards has spent most of a year cataloging every item on site at HIPAS.

"We've got welders, you can see the machine shop, a lot of things were fabricated in this room right here, it was a total machine shop," he said. "We've got an end mill down here that you can lathe stuff with, and over here we've got horizontal lathes, there's two of those."

Joe Campbell of Fairbanks Auction Co., a longtime veteran of the auction business, has the job of selling the items.

"It's going to be quite a process," Campbell said. "I knew when I took this job on that we had to find little ways of letting people know outside of the community of Fairbanks these items are for sale."

Among the items for sale: two giant diesel generators, the source of the observatory's electric power; a reel-to-reel data storage unit; a telescope that used spinning mercury as its mirror; and antenna arrays.

The HIPAS online auction began last week and continues in stages through May 3.

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