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April 4, 2002


Institute for Astronomy Wins $2 MILLION in New Federal Grants


Dr. Jeff Kuhn 808-956-8968

Mrs. Karen Rehbock 808-956-8566

Researchers from the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy (IfA) announced that nearly two million dollars in new research funding from National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), has been awarded to the IfA for astrophysical research to be conducted from Haleakala. Three different programs have been funded for studying the Solar Magnetosphere, the origins of "space weather," and a program to observe the local environments of nearby stars. Jeff Kuhn, the science division head for IfA Maui, announced that "in these times of declining state funding and stiff competition for federal grants these awards are critical for the survival of our research program on Haleakala. These projects are especially timely as we begin planning for a modern laboratory to replace an aging Kula farmhouse the IfA has been using to sustain its research activities on Maui."

Kuhn explained that "competition for these federal resources is getting harder and harder and the new awards from three different federal research organizations are a gratifying endorsement of the quality and breadth of the personnel and research programs on Maui." The new NASA resources will allow unique studies of the Sun's magnetic field using the Mees observatory and a new type of telescope called an off-axis coronagraph. AFOSR funding will allow UH researchers to explore the causes of "Space Weather" – the changes in the interplanetary plasma that affect Earth. The new NSF funding will allow IfA scientists to apply a new instrument, built by the IfA for the Advanced Electro-Optical Space (AEOS) telescope, to search for clues to the origin of planetary systems around other nearby stars.

The NASA funding will support a new program on Haleakala to explore the outer atmosphere of the Sun called the corona. It will also provide resources for an ongoing effort to study the causes of sunspots and solar storms called "flares." These programs are illustrated and described at <>

and at


The Air Force funding allows UH scientists to improve our ability to predict the influence of solar eruptions on Earth's space environment. This is a collaborative program to understand what we call "space weather." It involves scientists from several institutions across the U.S., but depends on the delivery of solar observations from Haleakala. The Space Weather project is described and illustrated at <>.

The National Science Foundation's support will allow UH researchers to study the local environment of other stars where planets like Jupiter may be formed in other solar systems. The Air Force telescope on Haleakala and UH/IfA instrumentation make this possible. An image of such a system (recently discovered by UH researchers) is at <>.

The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the Sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea. Refer to <> for more information.