2680 Woodlawn Drive • Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

Director's Office
Telephone: (808) 956-8566 • Fax: (808) 946-3467

For Immediate Release, June 10, 2002


Dr. Karen J. Meech 808-956-6828 meech@ifa.hawaii.edu

Mrs. Karen Rehbock 808-956-8566 rehbock@ifa.hawaii.edu


This week marks the start of the "TOPS" – Toward Other Planetary Systems Workshop. The Workshop is from June 10-28 on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii. TOPS is an astronomy program that explores worlds past and present. It is for teachers and high school students from Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands.

"TOPS" is a program combining participation from teachers and students to learn basic astronomy content and gain insight into exciting research activities in contemporary astronomy. Discussions of how astronomers are using the telescopes on Mauna Kea, around the world, and in space to search for evidence of planet formation in other solar systems — origins — and to search for life elsewhere will open up a new awareness of the forefront of astronomical research in Hawaii and around the world. The program is unique in that it combines the modern astronomical exploration in searching for new worlds with an exploration of the ancient Polynesian and Hawaiian techniques of astronomical navigation. The participants experience a full range of activities, from lectures, hands-on activities, demonstrations, discussion groups, to field trips to Mauna Kea, the National Volcano Park, and Cape Kumukahi to survey astronomically aligned ruins. They also get to interact with internationally renown scientists and engineers. The highlight of the TOPS program involves nightly observing with a collection of small telescopes. Students and teachers team together to pursue a variety of observing programs ranging from the beginner level to advanced CCD spectroscopy. Students receive college credits for their participation.

This NSF-sponsored program involves collaborators from the American Association of Variable Star Observers—AAVSO, the Montana State University NASA CERES project, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Bishop Museum, Pacific Regional Educational Lab, Hawaii State Department of Education, and private donors.

Dr. Karen J. Meech, TOPS Workshop Director and a senior faculty member at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, remarked "I am particularly grateful for the enormous amount of support TOPS gets from my colleagues and students, and in particular, the Institute staff — their assistance and enthusiasm has made this program a success for the past five years."

Interesting facts and figures:

–One year of TOPS represents 22,770 man hours of work.

–The total annual cost is almost $300,000.

–There are 20 staff members, including 5 astronomers and faculty, 5 graduate students, 6 educators, and 4 other professionals at the Institute for Astronomy who are involved with the program.

–There are 34 guest speakers who donate their time and attend the workshop at their own expense.

Response from previous workshops has been particularly gratifying. Participant comments from previous years include: "This workshop has been the highlight of my educational career." – "I went in uncertain of a career. I now know that this is something I really want to do for the rest of my life." – "Outstanding! A must for teachers."

One of the TOPS participants this year is a prize recipient of the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DYSC), which is associated with Science Fairs around the nation, and occurs each fall in Washington, D.C. The DYSC was created in 1999 to address the lagging achievement in math and science in America. More than 50,000 children around the Nation enter science fairs which are sponsored by their schools. From these participants 4,000 middle school entrants in grades 5-8 are selected by their science fair directors to enter their science projects in the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge. Each year, between June and September, DYSC judges choose 400 semifinalists who are judged on scientific merit and their ability to communicate the science of their projects. Students give visual and written presentations which must demonstrate they understand their research. They give oral presentations and must demonstrate they are comfortable discussing their project and science.

Forty finalists from around the Nation are chosen and receive an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D. C. each October. The finalists compete in a series of team challenges and oral presentations and the winners receive scholarships. Semifinalists receive prizes, tee-shirts and gift certificates. This past year, the UH Institute for Astronomy sponsored one of the awards, which was to give an exceptional young scholar the opportunity to attend the TOPS workshop. The award went to the finalist who best demonstrated long-standing dedication to science and exhibited a consistent pattern of perceptive data analysis. The UH Institute for Astronomy is very pleased to announce that, at the October 2001 Challenge, Discovery Science Channel Scholar Melissa Lamberton of Tucson Arizona won the opportunity to participate in the UH Institute for Astronomy's two-week TOPS workshop.

Institute for Astronomy Director Rolf-Peter Kudritzki said "I am very happy the Institute is able to offer this year's award to such an exceptional young scholar. I am sure this promising young scientist will benefit immensely from the experience." Dr. Karen J. Meech, remarked "I am pleased Melissa Lamberton is participating in this year's TOPS workshop. Melissa has clearly demonstrated her interest in science and, in particular, astronomy. I am delighted she is one of this year's TOPS students."

Refer to <http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/tops> for more information on the TOPS Program.

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, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea. Refer to <http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu> for more information.


There are a number of TOPS activities which members of the news media are welcome to attend. Please contact Mrs. Karen Rehbock at 808-956-8566 for further information.

Thursday June 13, UH Institute for Astronomy (Oahu)

Stardust. Participants will make "Aerogel Jello" which is a substance that captures interplanetary dust particles.

9:00-11:00 a.m. "Hands On Activities" (Ms. Mary Kadooka, Dr. Karen Meech, Dr. James Heasley,

1:30-3:00 p.m. "Stardust Mission" (Dr. Aimee Whalen, Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Meet the Astronomers.

5:00-6:00 p.m. "Meet the Astronomers" (UH IfA Staff)

Sunday, June 16, Hawaii Preparatory Academy ("Big Island" of Hawaii)

Telescopes. See how they actually make telescopes.

10:30-11:30 a.m. "Mirror Grinding" (Dr. Janet Mattei, American Association of Variable Star Observers—AAVSO & Dr. Mike Mattei, Wallace Astrophysical Observatory, MIT)

Tuesday June 18, Hawaii Preparatory Academy ("Big Island" of Hawaii)

Archeoastronomy. Students will learn archaeological skills and actually participate in an on-site survey at Cape Kumukahi.

9:00-10:30 a.m. Introduction (Dr. Karen J. Meech, UH IfA)

10:30-12:00 p.m. Hawaiian Culture & Astronomy (Dr. Paul Coleman, UH IfA)

1:00-200 p.m. Surveying at Cape Kumukahi (Dr. Clive Ruggles, Univ. of Leicester, U.K.)

Wednesday, June 19, Hawaii Preparatory Academy ("Big Island" of Hawaii)

9:30-11:00 a.m. "Lakota Astronomy" (Chief Joseph Chasing Horse)

11:00-12:00 p.m. "Astronomy Culture Sharing"

1:00-4:00 p.m. Lakota "Learning Bundles" (Chief Joseph Chasing Horse, Mr. Richard Shope, Jet

Friday, June 21, Hapuna ("Big Island" of Hawaii)

Polynesian Voyaging.

7:30-9:30 p.m. "Polynesian Voyaging" (Mr. Nainoa Thompson)

Sunday June 23, Hawaii Preparatory Academy ("Big Island" of Hawaii)


10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. "Life Signatures" (Dr. John Stolz, Duquesne Univ.)

"Resources" (Ms. Lorraine Olendzenski, Univ. of Connecticut)

Wednesday Jun 26, Hawaii Preparatory Academy ("Big Island of Hawaii)

Deep Impact. Cratering Activities.

9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. "Deep Impact Mission" (Dr. Karen Meech, UH IfA; Ms. Donna Governor, TOPS 2002 Teacher)