Waipahu High School research telescope developed with UH Hilo astronomers’ aid

Associate Professor of Astronomy Rene Pierre Martin provided essential guidance throughout the process of specifying and installing a research-grade observatory at Waipahu High School on O‘ahu.

New telescope dome at high school.
UH Hilo astronomy professor Rene Pierre Martin was consulted in the planning and installation of a new observatory Waipahu High School. The observatory is strategically installed on a building rooftop that does not overhang any classrooms and experiences the least amount of light pollution. (Courtesy photo)

Given his experience with the new University of Hawai‘i at Hilo astronomy program’s teaching telescope, a UH Hilo professor provided essential guidance throughout the process of specifying and installing a research-grade observatory at Waipahu High School on O‘ahu.

Astronomer with telescope system in background.
René Pierre Martin works on the PlaneWave CDK700 0.7-meter teaching telescope system at the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building. (Archived photo, 2016)

In February 2019, Rene Pierre Martin started gathering elements to help select equipment and identify an ideal site, which required conducting tests atop the school’s roof. He was assisted by Windell Jones, an engineer working at the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope and a graduate from Waipahu High.

UH spearheaded the inaugural project with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education. The 12.5-foot dome, which houses a 17-inch telescope, is geared toward helping build student interest in science, technology, engineering and math-related careers, commonly called the STEM fields. The newly installed telescope is mounted on a building rooftop on the school’s campus.

“Since the telescope had to be mounted on the building, we had to test for vibrations,” says Martin. “As a result, we also designed the special platform to mount the dome. The platform top section is isolated from inducing vibrations to the building.”

It’s a familiar field for the Hawai‘i Island professor who is currently overseeing the development of a UH Hilo educational telescope that will be available to UH students, faculty, and the community.

“The Waipahu observatory is a sized-down version of the UH Hilo educational telescope,” Martin explains. “Students desiring to pursue projects first started at WHS, but needing a larger telescope located in a great site, will be welcome to do so. They will already be in familiar territory due to similarity of equipment and software between both observatories.”

The remotely-operated observatory at Waipahu High School will enable astronomy students to collaborate on joint research projects with teams throughout the state, country, and world.

The McInerny Foundation donated more than $200,000 for the purchase of the observatory, which is designed to be operated remotely and will be available for students enrolled in the school’s college-level Astronomy 295 course through Waipahu’s Early College program in partnership with Leeward Community College.

Read the full story at UH System News.