National Science Foundation grant to fund new telescope instrumentation

Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to fund major research instrumentation for the University’s Hoku Kea Telescope atop Mauna Kea. Funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, the award totals $141,664 over a 3-year period, effective September 15, 2009.

“We’re delighted that NSF has awarded us this grant,” said Principal Investigator Dr. David James. “This project is an important part of our plan to transform the Physics and Astronomy Department from the traditional lecture-based Community College model to a research-based, professional, modern academic teaching and research group.”

The project, entitled “MRI Acquisition: Hawaiʻi-based Undergraduate Leadership in Astronomy (HULA) by Acquiring Instrumentation For an Educational 1m-Class Telescope,” involves the design, construction and commission of a new digital optical camera and a spectrograph which will be used to analyze the light from stars. The new equipment will enable faculty astronomers to conduct important scientific research, while providing training and scientific research opportunities for UH Hilo undergraduate students.

In awarding the grant, NSF noted that the combination of the new one-meter class telescope and its location atop one of the world’s premier sites for observational astronomy, places UH Hilo among an elite group of undergraduate institutions capable of providing faculty and students with research grade telescopes and instrumentation.

“This brings us one step closer to fulfillment of our vision when the 24-inch telescope was retired,” said Co-Principal Investigator Dr. William Heacox. “The addition of these new instruments will set the stage for faculty and students to engage in the kind of nuts and bolts astronomy research and publishing opportunities that will take this program to the next level.”

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