[meteorite-list] UH Hilo Joins Hunt for Killer Asteroids

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Feb 9 12:35:45 2006
Message-ID: <200602091734.k19HY3W01470_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

Institute for Astronomy
University of Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii


Dr. Nick Kaiser
Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii at Manoa

Dr. Robert Fox
Physics & Astronomy Department
University of Hawaii at Hilo

Mrs. Karen Rehbock
Assistant to the Director
Institute for Astronomy
University of Hawaii

For immediate release: February 7, 2006

UH Hilo Joins Hunt for Killer Asteroids

Astrophysicists at the University of Hawaii at Hilo have become partners
in the Pan-STARRS project, an observatory to search the sky for dangerous
asteroids and other unexpected celestial events.

The prototype telescope, with a single 70-inch-diameter mirror, is
currently under construction on Haleakala and will shortly be outfitted
with the world's largest digital camera, a device with 1.4 billion pixels.
The full Pan-STARRS observatory, which is expected to be completed in
2009, will have four such mirrors and will survey the whole sky several
times each month.

Scientists on the Hilo campus will contribute both to the development of
the system and to reaping the scientific rewards that will follow once the
observatory becomes operational. Students and faculty at UH Hilo will also
be active in spreading the word of the educational opportunities arising
from the project in the local community and will develop material that can
be used in high schools to promote the project.

The project capitalizes on expertise in developing astronomical detectors
at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy in Manoa, where
experts are working with MIT's Lincoln Laboratory to develop the new
detectors. The data will be processed with the help of the Maui High
Performance Computer Center (MHPCC) on Maui, and data will be made
available to the community via a database being developed by partner
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The final system is
planned to replace the University's 36-year-old 2.2-meter (88-inch)
telescope on Mauna Kea. Institute for Astronomy Director Dr. Rolf
Kudritzki said, "Pan-STARRS is the first major telescope facility to be
developed by the IfA in several decades. It leverages the unique features
of Hawaiian observing sites which deliver the sharpest images on the
planet, as well as the enormous strengths in both technological and
scientific skills that have been built up at the University. Larger
telescopes on Mauna Kea will be used to follow up the discoveries of

A major goal of Pan-STARRS is to discover and characterize
Earth-approaching objects, both asteroids and comets, that might pose a
danger to our planet. However, the huge volume of images produced by this
system will provide valuable data for many other kinds of scientific
programs. The system will generate up to 10 terabytes (10 million
megabytes) of data per night, and these data will be used to generate a
multicolor digital atlas of the entire sky as seen from Hawaii. Dr. Nick
Kaiser, leader of the project says, "By being able to scan the sky so
rapidly and repeatedly, this observatory will open up a whole range of new
possibilities in 'time-domain astronomy.' It will make enormous numbers of
discoveries of moving objects like asteroids, variable stars and
transients like supernovae and hypernovae. The data will be used to map
the dark matter in the Universe, and also to characterize the mysterious
'dark energy' that is driving the universal expansion."

"We welcome the participation of our colleagues and students from UH
Hilo," said Dr. Kaiser, emphasizing the importance the University of
Hawaii places on educating Hawaii's students. UH Hilo Physics Department
Chair Dr. Robert Fox says, "Our involvement with Pan-STARRS greatly
expands UH Hilo's ability to provide a unique astronomy education on the
slopes of one of the world?s premier observational sites."

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.


* Pan-STARRS project main page
* UH-HIlo Physics and Astronomy Department
* UH Institute for Astronomy

UH Hilo scientists who will be participating in the Pan-STARRS project.

Front row: Dr. Richard Crowe, Dr. Lawrence Armendarez, Eric Small
(Pan-STARRS intern)
Back row: Justin Stevick (Pan-STARRS intern), John Hamilton, Norman
Purves, Dr. Robert Fox, Isaac Crosson (intern), Heather Kaluna (intern)
Received on Thu 09 Feb 2006 12:34:03 PM PST

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