mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Haleakala Research and Projects


The SOLARC instrument is a 0.5 meter off-axis coronagraphic reflecting telescope which is located on Haleakala adjacent to the Mees Solar Observatory in the Zodiacal Light Observatory.

SOLARC web site

Magneto Optical Filter Instruments

The suite of four instruments, all based on magneto-optical filters, are designed to provide high-cadence imagery of the Doppler velocity and longitudinal magnetic field of the full solar disk at four different heights in the solar atmosphere with 4 arc-second resolution. These observations will allow us to determine the structure and dynamics of the Sun's atmosphere through seismic measurements, to assess the role of magneto-acoustic-gravity waves in heating the chromosphere/corona and driving the solar wind, and to better understand how the Sun's atmosphere couples to the interior.

Image Restoration

The imaging group at the IfA on Maui is currently researching the next-generation of image restoration techniques for detecting faint astronomical targets such as exosolar planets and surveying the geosynchronous belt. By restoring imagery of such targets from data obtained simultaneously at multiple wavelengths, our methods yield high-resolution images with specific information on the physical properties of the target.


PLANETS (Polarized Light from Atmospheres of Nearby ExtraTerrestrial Systems) is a novel 2 meter aperture telescope uniquely designed to achieve extremely high photometric dynamic range. It will be the world's largest off-axis telescope with unique coronagraphic and polarimetric capabilities. It will push the observational frontiers for seeing that part of the universe close to bright sources. Its science goals range from studying the tenuous atmospheres of solar system planets and satellites to exploring extrasolar planets and the circumstellar environments of other stars.

PLANETS project web site

Curvature AO

Adaptive optics (AO) is a critical component of many instruments on large telescopes. AO systems use deformable mirrors to remove the image motion and blurring of the sky caused by the atmosphere. AO can also assist other techniques like coronography, polarimetry, or spectroscopy by enhancing the resolution, precision, and dynamic range. The UH AO group and IfA Maui are actively participating in the construction, characterization, and improvement of a new type of AO system based on curvature measurements (not the traditional tip-tilt). The world's second-largest curvature AO system, Hokupa'a 85, was built by the UH AO group and is now active at IfA Maui. Hokupa'a is the progenitor for the 85-element system on the 8 meterGemini South telescope that is part of the Near-Infrared Coronographic Imager. 

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Stellar Spectropolarimetry

The environment around a star is very complex and dynamic with obscured stars showing evidence for winds, jets, disks, and accretion. The IfA group is actively involved in probing this near-star environment using spectropolarimetric observations and theory. One major problem in understanding these processes is their small spatial scale - they occur mainly within a few stellar radii of the host star. Simply imaging the circumstellar region with the necessary resolution and dynamic range will not be achieved even with the next generation of large telescopes, and other methods must be developed. Just like spectroscopy, the high-resolution polarized spectra of a star can be used to get information about this near-star region. At IfA, large observing campaigns with HiVIS high-resolution spectropolarimeter and ESPaDOnS spectropolarimeter are detecting and characterizing these spectropolarimetric signatures. Some initial observations of Herbig Ae/Be stars showed an unexpected result - these polarization signatures strongly correlated with absorptive effects - an effect unseen with lower resolution instrumentation. This data inspired a new model based on optical pumping and the effect was subsequently seen in essentially every class of obscured star we have observes to date. This is a large ongoing research program at IfA Maui.

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There are several ongoing research programs utilizing the 3.67 meter AEOS telescope atop Haleakala. UH has a high-resolution visible and infrared spectrograph (HiVIS) working at resolutions of 8000-50000 covering wavelengths of 0.5-2.5 microns. This instrument was largely designed and built by IfA and is used for many projects. In 2003 our group began design, construction and calibration of a spectropolarimeter for the HiVIS spectrograph. There are only two high resolution spectropolarimeters on large telescopes (4m) today - HiVIS at R=50000 and ESPaDOnS at R=68000. There's a third high resolution instrument (Narval, an ESPaDOnS copy on a 2m telescope) and another medium resolution instrument on a 4m (ISIS at R=8000). With this new instrumentation, many exciting science programs are possible.

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