From U Hawaii IFA at Manua Kea: “Hawaiʻi Astronomer Receives $1 Million Award to Build Sharper Eyes for Maunakea Telescope”

U Hawaii

University of Hawaii

U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

IFA at Manua Kea

6 July 2017
Dr. Christoph Baranec
+1-808-932-2318 (office)
baranec@hawaii.edu

Media Contact
Dr. Roy Gal
+1 301-728-8637
rgal@ifa.hawaii.edu

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Robo-AO Operating on the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter Telescope The ultraviolet Robo-AO laser originating from the Kitt Peak (Arizona) 2.1-meter Telescope dome. Although the laser is invisible to the human eye, it shows up in digital SLR cameras once their internal UV blocking filters are removed. The apparent color of the laser beam is a result of the UV light leaking through the camera’s red, green and blue pixel filters by slightly different amounts. Image credit: C. Baranec

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Prototype Robo-AO system at the Kitt Peak 2.1-m telescope. Dr. Baranec and his team with the prototype Robo-AO system at the Kitt Peak 2.1-m telescope. Image credit: C. Baranec

The University of Hawaiʻi’s 2.2 meter (88-inch) telescope on Maunakea will soon be producing images nearly as sharp as those from the Hubble Space Telescope, thanks to a new instrument using the latest image sharpening technologies.

U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

Astronomer Christoph Baranec, at the University of Hawaiʻi’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to build an autonomous adaptive optics system called Robo-AO-2 for the UH telescope.

Construction of the new instrument starts at the IfA’s Hilo facility in September, and it will be operational in just two years. The instrument will take hundreds of high-resolution images of planets, stars, and asteroids every night without operators on the summit. “The new Robo-AO-2 will usher in a new age of high-resolution science in astronomy,” says Dr. Baranec, “and we’re doing it with one of the oldest and smallest telescopes on Maunakea.”

The Robo-AO-2 system will take advantage of recent renovations to the UH 2.2-meter telescope, and the superior atmospheric conditions above Maunakea, to make some of the sharpest visible-light images from the Earth’s surface. “Because Robo-AO-2 will be so versatile and capable, we’ll be able to undertake surveys of an unprecedented number of exoplanet host stars and candidate lensed quasars, and even monitor the nightly weather of our planetary neighbors – all in high-definition color,” says Dr. Baranec. The latter is particularly timely as NASA is now planning to send probes to Uranus and Neptune in the coming decades. Knowing what to expect ahead of time is a crucial element of mission planning.

Dr. Baranec is also planning to use Robo-AO-2 to support education efforts in Hawaiʻi. “UH Hilo in particular has guaranteed time for their students on the UH 2.2-meter and I’m excited to see our local youth operating this cutting-edge technology for both classes and summer research projects,” says Baranec. In addition, time with Robo-AO-2 will also be made available to high school students through the Maunakea Scholars program, a partnership between the Maunakea Observatories, Hawaiʻi State Department of Education and University of Hawaiʻi, and led by Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope (CFHT).

The new instrument is based on the prototype Robo-AO system developed by Dr. Baranec at Caltech, and later used with telescopes at the Palomar Observatory and Kitt Peak National Observatory. It has been an indispensable tool in confirming or revising the thousands of exoplanet discoveries made by NASA’s Kepler mission, and in measuring the rates at which different types of stars are born into single, double, triple and even quadruple star systems.

See the full article here .

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