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A Telescope the Size of the Earth

by Brea Aamoth on January 29th, 2016

Viewing Black Holes, Galaxies, and Stars with the Sharpest Resolution

How do data from 10 telescopes, set across the United States, merge to make the most detailed images of astronomical objects ever attained? Join Dr. Geoffrey Bower of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) for a look at how scientists use this network of instruments to understand black holes, the structure of our galaxy, and the nature of stars, at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s next Maunakea Skies program on February 19, 2016 at 7 pm.

Atop Maunakea sits one component of the largest telescope in the world, the Very Long Baseline Array, which consists of 10 radio telescopes distributed across the U.S., from Hawai‘i to the Virgin Islands, with a reach that extends as far as telescopes in Earth orbit. The great distances between these 10 telescopes enable astronomers to observe the Universe with an unprecedented precision—capable of resolving Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the Moon!

Dr. Bower will share how the VLBA’s high resolution view enables us to see the hot plasma that is orbiting and ejected from black hole systems, as well as how it can perform the most accurate measurements of distance and motion, giving us a detailed view of the structure of our galaxy. He will also discuss how the VLBA is used to understand the nature of stars across their lifespan, from their early lives as highly magnetized systems to their deaths as supernovae.

Dr. Geoffrey Bower

Dr. Geoffrey Bower

Dr. Geoffrey Bower is Chief Scientist for Hawai‘i Operations for the Academica Sinica Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA). Dr. Bower studies black holes and other energetic phenomena using radio telescopes, including the Very Long Baseline Array, the Submillimeter Array on Maunakea, the Very Large Array in New Mexico, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Bower has performed research and taught at the Max Planck Institut für Radioastronomie in Germany, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico, and UC Berkeley.

The Maunakea Skies program will be hosted by ‘Imiloa Planetarium Technician, Emily Peavy, who will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, and point out prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year.

‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. Cost is $8 for Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members. Non-member rate is $10. Pre-purchase tickets at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by phone at 932-8901.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, go to, or call (808) 932-8901.

feb 2016 pic

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