mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Front Page Archives

These stories have appeared on the IfA home page. See also Press Releases.

 

HI STAR Alumni Excel at Intel Science Fair, Ted Talks

Students who have participated in HI STAR (Hawai‘i Student/Teacher Astronomy Research), an IfA program that encouranges middle and high school students to excel in the sciences by teaching them how to do astronomical research, picked up a bundle of awards at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles. Six of the 25 students from Hawai‘i who went to ISEF were students who had previously attended HI STAR, and nine of the 18 awards won by Hawai‘i students were won by HI STAR alumni. Several HI STAR alumni also gave impressive TEDx youth talks that can be accessed online.

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‘Death Stars’ in Orion Blast Planets before They Even Form

The Orion Nebula is home to hundreds of young stars and even younger protostars known as proplyds. Many of these nascent systems will go on to develop planets, while others will have their planet-forming dust and gas blasted away by the fierce ultraviolet radiation emitted by massive O-type stars that lurk nearby.

A team of astronomers from Canada and the United States, including the IfA's Jonathan Wiliams, has used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to study the often deadly relationship between highly luminous O-type stars and nearby protostars in the Orion Nebula. Their data reveal that protostars within 0.1 light-years (about 600 billion miles) of an O-type star are doomed to have their cocoons of dust and gas stripped away in just a few millions years, much faster than planets are able to form.

NRAO Press Release

 

IfA Astronomers Participate in "A Small Step toward Discovering Habitable Earths"

University of Arizona researchers snapped images of a planet outside our solar system with an Earth-based telescope using essentially the same type of imaging sensor found in digital cameras instead of an infrared detector. Although the technology still has a very long way to go, the accomplishment takes astronomers a small step closer to what will be needed to image earth-like planets around other stars. IfA astronomers provided some near-infrared data taken with the Gemini Near Infrared Coronagraphic Imager (NICI) that was used in the analysis.

Arizona Press Release

 

Two IfA Exoplanet Studies Included in APS Top Physics News Stories of 2013

The American Physical Society web page, “Physics Newsmakers of 2013” says under the heading “Exoplanets,” “2013 was another banner year for the search for another Earth” and specifically mentions two discoveries that IfA astronomers participated in: Nader Haghighipour was part of the team that found three planets orbiting star Gliese 667C in the habitable zone, and Erik Petigura and Andrew Howard were among the authors of a study that estimated that one in five stars like the sun has planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life, making it statistically likely that the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is only 12 light-years away.

APS List

 

Board of Regents Approves the Victor and Peggy Brandstrom Pavel Director’s Chair in Astronomy

The Victor and Peggy Brandstrom Pavel Director’s Chair in Astronomy at the IfA has been established with a $2 million gift that is part of an overall $10 million estate gift to UH. These funds will give the IfA director flexibility to enhance the IfA's programs, and advance the education and research missions of IfA. Funds will be used to recruit and retain talented faculty, support quality research and provide seed research funding, particularly among promising junior faculty.

This gift was originally announced in early 2013 without the donors being named, but the Pavels gave the UH Foundation permission to acknowledge them posthumously and to explain the reason for the gift: They believed deeply in the value of science education.

IfA Director Dr. Günther Hasinger said, "With an endowed chair we will be able to bring some of the best faculty members and graduate students here because it gives flexibility that otherwise is not possible." Hasinger continued, "IfA contributes to our very understanding of the universe. It also excites young people and inspires them to think about careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields."

UH Foundation Press Release

 

How Bad Is Light Pollution?

This segment aired on CBS This Morning on November 30. It is an interview with Bob Parks, executive director of the International Dark Sky Association. They start off talking about Comet ISON and then move into the interview with Parks.

Video

 

Scientific Authorities Sign the TMT Master Agreement

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project announced on July 25 that all of the scientific authorities of the TMT partners have signed a Master Agreement. The Master Agreement document establishes a formal agreement amongst the international parties defining the project goals, establishing a governance structure and defining member party rights, obligations and benefits.

TMT Press Release

 

Pan-STARRS Discovers Another Near-Earth Asteroid

On July 15, the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakalā discovered an asteroid about the size of a football field that will make its closest approach to Earth—at a distance about 11 times that of the Moon—on July 22.

Slooh Press Release

 

Pan-STARRS Telescope Discovers Ten Thousandth Near-Earth Object

More than 10,000 asteroids and comets that can pass near Earth have now been discovered. The 10,000th near-Earth object, asteroid 2013 MZ5, was first detected on the night of June 18, 2013, by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, located on the 10,000-foot (convert) summit of the Haleakala crater on Maui. Managed by the University of Hawaii, the PanSTARRS survey receives NASA funding.

NASA Press Release

 

Global Announcement of Opportunity: JCMT Available for New Operator or Operating Partnership

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), one of the world's leading astronomical observatories, has served the UK and international communities with unique and forefront capabilities that have blazed the trail in submillimetre astronomy, consistently leading the world in productivity and impact for more than 25 years. Despite these successes, the UK’s funding agency for astronomy, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), can no longer support the JCMT beyond 30th September 2014. The observatory, its instrumentation and its support equipment are therefore being offered to the global astronomical community through this Announcement of Opportunity.

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Gemini Observatory Captures Comet ISON Hurtling Toward Uncertain Destiny with the Sun

IfA astronomers Karen Meech and Jacqueline Keane talk about the latest data.

Gemini Press Release

How to Hunt for New Earths

A Time video featuring IfA astronomer Nader Haghighipour and the W. M. Keck Observatory.

Video

 

$3M Donation Puts Pan-STARRS Back on Track

The cancellation of earmarks by the U.S. Congress in 2011 left Pan-STARRS, one of Hawai‘i’s flagship programs, $10M short of the funds needed to complete the historic 2-telescope system — and on the verge of folding. Thanks to an anonymous $3M gift, Pan-STARRS will survive the cuts and continue astronomy research of global import.

Press Release

 

Astronomers Measure Distance to Neighbor Galaxy More Accurately Than Ever Before

After nearly a decade of careful observations, an international team of astronomers, including two from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has measured the distance to our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, more accurately than ever before.

Press Release

 

NEW EVIDENCE THAT COMETS COULD HAVE SEEDED LIFE ON EARTH

A new experiment simulating conditions in deep space reveals that the complex building blocks of life could have been created on icy interplanetary dust and then carried to Earth, jump-starting life. Dr. Ralf Kaiser, a chemist who is a team member of the UH NASA Astrobiology Institute, participated in the research.

Press Release

 

IfA to Benefit from $9.2 Million Gift to UH

Part of the gift will give the IfA Director flexibility to enhance the IfA's programs, and advance the education and research missions of IfA. Funds will be used to recruit and retain talented faculty, support quality research and provide seed research funding, particularly among promising junior faculty.

UH Foundation Press Release

 

Construction on ATST Site Begins Following Formal Blessing

On November 30, construction at the ATST site began following a formal Hawaiian Blessing. The event was attended by Board Chair Dan Clemens, AURA President William Smith, IfA Director Gunther Hasinger, ATST co-investigator Michael Knoelker, and others.

Photo

 

Subaru Telescope Takes Pictures of a "Super-Jupiter" around a Massive Star

An international team of astronomers known as the SEEDS project has taken images of a very large planet around a star in the constellation Andromeda. This star, called Kappa Andromedae b (Kappa And b, for short), is 2.5 times as massive as the Sun and only about 30 million years old. The images were obtained with two infrared cameras mounted on the Subaru Telescope, HiCIAO and IRCS that were built at the IfA by K. Hodapp and A. Tokunaga, respectively.

Taking an image of a faint planet very close to an overwhelmingly bright star requires a combination of several advanced technologies: adaptive optics to sharpen up the images, coronographic optics to block most of the star's light, infrared cameras to detect the faint glow of the planet, and sophisticated data reduction software to separate the planet's image from the residual glare of the star. The paper describing this work, soon to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, points out that the newly discovered super-Jupiter is just at the upper mass limit for planets (13 times the mass of Jupiter), and may actually produce some energy by the nuclear fusion of deuterium.

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Astronomers Create Instructions for Finding Exoplanets

IfA astronomer Michael Liu and IfA graduate student Brendan Bowler have worked with Evgenya Shkolnik, a former postdoctoral fellow at IfA who is now an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, to create a set of directions for finding exoplanets (planets around other stars). Their paper, recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, examined new and existing data from stars and brown dwarfs that are less than 300 million years old. Two telescopes on Mauna Kea (Keck and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope) played significant roles in the project.

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Pan-STARRS Image of Lagoon Featured on APOD

The beautiful PS1 image of the Lagoon-Trifid region is the October 12, 2012, Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

APOD link

 

Guyon Receives MacArthur Fellowship

Dr. Olivier Guyon, who worked at IfA during the final years of his PhD thesis research, has received one of 23 MacArthur Fellowships, also known as the “genius grants.” Recipients receive a $500,000 no-strings-attached grant over five years. While at IfA, Guyon worked with IfA faculty member François Roddier. He received his PhD from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in 2002 and now works at both the Subaru telescope on Hawai‘i island and at the University of Arizona, where he is an assistant professor. He specializes in designing telescopes and the instruments for them.

MacArthur Foundation press release