Astronomers unite to use Hawaii telescope

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Oct 3, 2006

Astronomers from several major research institutions around the world have signed an agreement with astronomers at the University of Hawaii to make use of a revolutionary new survey telescope on Haleakala on the island of Maui.

The PS1 telescope is expected to discover billions of new stars, galaxies and solar system objects, including potential "killer asteroids" that threaten Earth. It will also produce the most detailed three-dimensional map of the Universe ever made.

Over 30 world-renowned scientists and their graduate students have committed themselves to analyzing the unprecedented flood of data from PS1 over the next three and half years.

"We decided to recruit a number of top astronomers to join us in order to make the best use of this fantastic instrument," said University of Hawaii's Kenneth Chambers who, as project scientist, is responsible for carrying out the PS1 survey.

"We are delighted to have assembled a powerful consortium that includes the prestigious Max Planck Society in Germany, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Las Cumbres Observatory in the USA, plus Durham, Edinburgh and Belfast Universities in the United Kingdom," said Rolf Kudritzki, director of UH's Institute for Astronomy.

The consortium will contribute about $10 million to cover the cost of operating the telescope in Hawaii.

"Pan-STARRS is the next critical step in mapping the Universe. Our scientists are eagerly awaiting the first data for a large range of astronomical projects, said Harvard Professor of Cosmology John Huchra.

The PS1 telescope has been developed by astronomers at the University of Hawaii. It is the first stage of the "Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS)" project, which is the brainchild of IfA's Nick Kaiser.

The telescope, which has a 71-inch diameter mirror, achieved "first light" in June this year. It is currently undergoing engineering tests and will become fully operational in 2007. It will soon be equipped with the world's largest digital camera, now under construction at the UH Institute for Astronomy's Manoa headquarters under the leadership of John Tonry. The camera will have 1.4 billion pixels--about 300 times as many as a typical commercial digital camera.

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.

Established in 1907 and fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the University of Hawaii is the state's sole public system of higher education. The UH System provides an array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees and community programs on 10 campuses and through educational, training, and research centers across the state. UH enrolls more than 50,000 students from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, and around the world.


Dr. Kenneth Chambers

UH Institute for Astronomy



1-808-794-4344 (cell)

Dr. Nick Kaiser

UH Institute for Astronomy




Dr. Gareth Wynn-Williams

UH Institute for Astronomy



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