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Astronomer Wins Planetary Sciences Award

Posted on | October 29, 2010 | Comments Off on Astronomer Wins Planetary Sciences Award

Alan Tokunaga on Mauna Kea

Alan Tokunaga by the NASA IRTF dome on Mauna Kea. Photo by Roy Tokunaga.

Astronomer Alan Tokunaga was honored with 2010 Harold Masursky Award from The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society at its annual meeting on Oct. 6. He was recognized for his outstanding service to planetary science and exploration.

Tokunaga served as director of the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea since 2000, the longest term in the history of that observatory. The citation notes that Tokunaga “has played an indispensable role in the growth of ground-based infrared astronomy of the solar system, and in furthering planetary science as a whole.”

Since he came to Mānoa in 1979, Tokunaga has worked on developing new instruments for the IRTF and Subaru telescopes, and under his directorship, there have been numerous improvements to IRTF that have significantly enhanced its image quality. He made contributions to planetary science in the areas of the composition of planetary atmospheres, asteroids and comets.

Tokunaga has advanced infrared astronomy by standardizing the filters used by various telescopes at infrared wavelengths. He wrote the infrared astronomy section in the latest edition of Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, an important reference book for astronomers.

“A lot of the credit goes to the excellent staff we have at the facility. They keep the telescope running every night,” says Tokunaga.

“Alan Tokunaga has been doing an outstanding job as director of the IRTF. With his enormous experience, scientific skills, and dedication, he has turned the IRTF into one of the world’s most successful telescopes,” says Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the Institute for Astronomy.

Read the news release.