Maunakea Scholars Program awards telescope time to new student astronomers at Kalani

Future UH Mānoa students have been awarded time with a Maunakea Observatory telescope

University of Hawaiʻi
Brent T Suyama, (808) 956-9524
Assoc Dir, UH Communications
Christine Matsuda Smith , (808) 753-7134
Bennet Group Strategic Communications
Posted: Apr 30, 2019

Link to video and sound:

The Maunakea Observatories made a special announcement today to three lucky astronomy students at Kalani High School. This is the third time since the program’s inception in 2015 that student proposals from Kalani High School have been awarded. The students will be given time to utilize a Maunakea Observatory telescope to conduct astronomical research as it supports their submitted proposal.

“I was surprised and excited to hear my name and project be announced as a winner," Kalani student Sean Koyamatsu said. "I’m looking forward to go to Maunakea to see the cutting edge technology there.”

The students were selected by a time allocation committee comprised of professional astronomers. After months working alongside mentors from the University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy, analyzing data and preparing professional-style research proposals, the student observers were selected based on viability, creativity and potential.

The committee selected the winning proposals:

  • Jun Liang Pang and Andrew Gresham were awarded one hour of observing time with the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope using the instrument Espadons for their proposal “How Does a Vampire Star Phenomenon Occur and How It Steals from Its Neighbor.”

  • Koyamatsu was awarded one hour of observing time with the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility for his proposal “Life on Titan.”

The students plan to enroll at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in the fall.

Designed to bring Hawai‘i’s high schoolers into one of the most advanced observatory communities, Maunakea Scholars helps aspiring astronomers envision their potential of pursuing a career in STEM-related fields. It is the first program of its kind internationally to allocate observing time at major observatories for the direct educational advancement of students. To qualify, students in participating schools must conduct astronomical research and assemble a comprehensive proposal that can be conducted at an observatory. Selected proposals are then matched with graduate students from the University of Hawai‘i Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and telescope staff to individually guide them through their research.

“For four years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to work alongside Maunakea Scholars students as they formulate these ingenious proposals,” said Mary Beth Laychak, outreach program manager at the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope. “Year after year the students develop new and innovative research ideas on par with those we see from professional astronomers”.

The current Maunakea Scholars include students from twelve local schools: Kapolei High School, Kalani High School, Waipahu High School, and Nānākuli High School on O‘ahu, and Waiākea High School, Kohala High School, Kealakehe High School and Honoka‘a High Schools on Hawai‘i Island, King Keakaulike High School on Maui, Moloka‘i High School, Lāna‘i High School and Kapa’a High School on Kaua‘i. As of the 2018-2019 school year, the Maunakea Scholars Program works with education partners at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and the all the Maunakea Observatories facilities and the Las Cumbres Observatory that allocate telescope time for student exploration

Initiated by Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope and Gemini Observatory, and in partnership with the Maunakea Observatories and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education, Maunakea Scholars successfully launched in 2015 to bring Hawai‘i’s aspiring young astronomers into the observatory community.



BROLL: 1:30

  • 1 shot: Kalani HS exterior
  • 10 shots: MK Scholars listening to remarks
  • 1 shot: Mauna Kea extreme wide shot


Mary Beth Laychak, Outreach Manager (:08)
Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope
“The Maunakea Scholar Program is in its fourth year. We started off with two schools in 2015-2016 and now we’re up to 12 schools.”

Mary Beth Laychak, Outreach Manager (:07)
Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope
“We have a handful of students majoring in astronomy, we have one who’s majoring in business; she wants to come back and be the CFO of an observatory.”

Sean Koyamatsu, Student (:09)
Kalani High School
“I guess I wasn’t expecting this at all, but when you think about I’m very grateful and I’m looking forward to having this experience.”

Andrew Gresham, Student (:10)
Kalani High School
“The thought of going up and seeing the telescopes is pretty exciting. I always want to go and see new technology around so being able to go up to those high telescopes is pretty cool.” 


About the Maunakea Observatories
The Maunakea Observatories are a collaboration of independent institutions with telescopes located on Maunakea on the island of Hawai‘i. Together, the Observatories make Maunakea the most scientifically productive site for astronomy world-wide. The Maunakea Observatories include: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope, Gemini International Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (EAO), NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Subaru Telescope, Submillimeter Array, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, University of Hawai'i Hilo Educational Telescope, University of Hawai‘i 2.2 Meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array, W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II).

About the Hawai‘i State Department of Education

The Hawai‘i State Department of Education is the ninth-largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 256 schools and 34 charter schools, and serves 179,902 students. King Kamehameha III established Hawai‘i’s public school system in 1840. To learn more, visit