The Hōkū Keʻa Educational Observatory is a facility currently in development at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. At the core of the observatory is a state-of-the-art PlaneWave CDK700 0.7-meter telescope system, now under development on campus but eventually to be housed in a yet-to-be-built modern “clamshell” dome.
For several months, UH Hilo astronomer René Pierre Martin and student Callie Crowder have been working on assembling and calibrating the telescope.
Hōkū Keʻa mission
Part of the Hōkū Keʻa mission will be to undertake research and educational projects and work with local communities to bring opportunities to children.
Once the observatory becomes fully operational, high school and college students from across the state will be able to operate the telescope either on-site, remotely or robotically.
Martin and Crowder began work on the telescope in September of 2016. They assembled and calibrated the various components, including the computers, dome, instruments and telescope.
“Essentially the observatory is a large ensemble of components, and it has to work all together to make a whole,” explains Martin. “All of these systems have to be controlled through different layers of software. Our role is to try to integrate all of that, to provide an observing environment where it is very easy to take data.”
Although many of the main components have been assembled, Crowder says there is still a lot more to be done.
“We have to make everything robotic,” she says. Crowder is very interested in the possibilities surrounding the robotic features, since it will benefit students who are not on-site and allow them to use the telescope remotely at times that best fit their schedules.
Looking toward next semester
The team is excited to work on their biggest challenge yet—software set-up. The amalgam of software components will help to robotize the telescope, allowing it to be remotely operated using different devices, including mobile, and be completely automated.
The team will need to configure all of the various components to work together autonomously, using software that they will be configuring to the specifications particular to the telescope and other observatory components.
For more on the project, read the full article.
—A UH Hilo Stories article written by Lara Hughes, a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor