New telescope dedicated on Haleakala

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Jul 5, 2006

The University of Hawaii's newest telescope, called PS1, was dedicated on Friday, June 30, 2006, in a ceremony on the summit of Haleakala. The telescope is a prototype for the larger Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, telescope scheduled to start scanning the skies for "killer asteroids" in 2010.

Institute for Astronomy Director Rolf Kudritzki described the dedication of PS1 as "a historic event, since Pan-STARRS is the most important University of Hawaii telescope project in 30 years." PS1 achieved "first light" in late June, when engineers obtained test images of a number of stars.

The telescope‘s mirror is only 71 inches in diameter, much smaller than the twin Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, whose mirrors are nearly 400 inches each. What will make PS1 unique is that it will be equipped with the world's largest digital camera, which is currently under construction at the UH Institute for Astronomy's Manoa headquarters. This camera will contain 1.4 billion pixels--about 300 times more than is found in a typical commercial digital camera. Each night PS1 will produce about 2000 gigabytes of data, most of which will be sent by optical fiber to be analyzed at the Maui High Performance Computing Center in Kihei.

Once the telescope is operational, the PS1 survey will survey the whole sky every few days to find celestial objects that change or move. In addition to discovering millions of asteroids, some of which might pose a danger to Earth, PS1 will collect data to be analyzed by Hawaii astronomers and an international consortium. The data collected will help answer questions in areas of astronomy ranging from our solar system to the entire observable universe.

In his speech at the dedication, Kudritzki noted that PS1 is the first astronomy project to be constructed on Haleakala following the guidelines established in the Haleakala High Altitude Observatory Site Long Range Development Plan. Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. provided the "sense of place" training for all PS1 construction personnel, and he also served as the cultural monitor who oversaw all construction.

According to Hawaiian oral history, the ancient Hawaiian astronomers and their students studied the sky from Puʻu Kolekole on the summit of Haleakala. The culmination of the dedication ceremony was the blessing of the building by two of Maxwell‘s grandsons and the untying of the maile lei, an act of respect, an expression of sense of place, and an explicit acknowledgment of the ancient Hawaiian astronomers who first observed the universe from Haleakala.

The telescope and its enclosure were built by EOS Technologies, based in Tucson, Arizona and Canberra, Australia. The primary and secondary mirrors were developed through the efforts of Corning Inc., Rayleigh Optical Corporation and Evaporated Metal Films Inc.

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