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A Telescope the Size of the Earth

by Imiloa Astronomy Center on April 28th, 2017

‘Imiloa presents Dr. Alison Peck, representing the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA)

Date: Fri. May 19
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply)

We’ve all seen black holes popping up in science fiction movies and even in some ‘end of the world’ theories, but do black holes really exist and, if so, can we find them? The answer is yes—with the help of telescopes from around the world, including observatories on Maunakea. Learn more about black holes and how we can spot them by linking telescopes across the globe to create ‘A Telescope the Size of the Earth,’ at ‘Imiloa’s next Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m. with Dr. Alison Peck, representing the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) on Maunakea.

Dr. Alison Peck in front of the Atacama Compact Array a part of Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) one of the arrays participating in the Event Horizon Telescope

Dr. Peck by Atacama Compact Array, a part ALMA one of the arrays participating in the EHT

In April 2017, astronomers worked together to combine advanced technology in an extraordinary technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) linking ground based instruments around the world to create, in effect, one giant telescope called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The EHT will deeply explore and target the supermassive black hole that resides at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. The goal of this ambitious collaboration is to capture the first image of a black hole’s event horizon, which is the point where light can no longer escape the object’s gravity. Dr. Peck will discuss the circumstances that cause black holes to form, and some of the methods that astronomers use to detect these exotic objects in space. As more data is collected through the EHT, the more scientists are joining in this global development in the quest to grasp a deeper knowledge of black holes, the mysterious objects that challenge our laws of physics.

An Artists’ interpretation of a black hole

Dr. Peck, who currently serves as a Scientist at Gemini Observatory, has an extensive history of undertaking complicated projects in radio astronomy.  She has been using the VLBA since she started working on her PhD in Physics at New Mexico Tech in 1994. After obtaining her PhD she spent two years in Germany where her focus was searching for gas falling into giant black holes.  She moved to the Big Island in 2001 to work at the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array, and then went on to Chile in 2007 to commission the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter telescope, the largest ground-based telescope project in the world. She continues utilizing the VLBA and other international Very Long Baseline Interferometry facilities today, including several of the telescopes that took part in the recent observations of the Galactic center. Although she has studied and worked all over the world, Dr. Peck says she is always happiest when she is working on Maunakea.


Map of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) locations across the Earth

Map of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) locations across the Earth

Hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy, ‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, with the audience able to view prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year. Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Member Level Discounts: $8 for UHH/HawCC Student, Kupuna, Individual, Dual, and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.

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