Pan-STARRS telescope

Pan-STARRS telescope

The cancellation of earmarks by the U.S. Congress in 2011 left Pan-STARRS, one of Hawaiʻi’s flagship programs, $10 million short of the funds needed to complete the historic 2-telescope system.

Thanks to an anonymous $3 million gift, Pan-STARRS will survive the cuts and continue astronomy research of global import.

The Pan-STARRS project is an innovative design for synchronized wide-field telescopes developed at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy. Since it became operational in 2010, the first telescope in the system, PS1, has discovered more than 345 near-Earth asteroids, including 29 that are potentially hazardous to Earth, as well as 19 previously unobserved comets – like the one visible in our skies right now.

The Institute for Astronomy is building a second telescope, PS2, the second component to this landmark initiative. “Once PS2 is completed this year, the Pan-STARRS system will be by far the most powerful wide-field imaging system in existence,” said Nick Kaiser, principal investigator of Pan-STARRS at the Institute for Astronomy.

The $3 million gift will:

  • support the construction activities of the Pan-STARRS project,
  • pay for salaries for Pan-STARRS staff, preserving science jobs in Hawaiʻi,
  • bring new knowledge and support national security by bringing the world the most powerful wide-field imaging system, and
  • help NASA track satellites and identify astronomical bodies that may affect our planet.

“Before receiving this generous gift, we were looking at having to lay our team off and halting the 2-telescope system project,” said Günther Hasinger, director of the Institute for Astronomy. “Having to lay off our staff would have had long-term implications for Hawaiʻi’s international leadership in astronomy. It has taken years to build up the qualified team we have here and would take years to rebuild our areas of expertise. Our team members, and indeed our entire research community, are deeply grateful to our donors for funding this research and literally saving jobs.”

Adapted from a UH Foundation news release

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