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Recent Discoveries and Future Promise from UKIRT

by Brea Aamoth on May 9th, 2015


Next Maunakea Skies Talk May 15, 2015 at 7PM

Speaker: Dr. Richard Green, UKIRT

Topic: UKIRT: Recent Discoveries and Future Promise + The International Year of Light

The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) was conceived and realized by astronomers in the UK to be particularly sensitive to infrared radiation. After major refurbishment in the 1990s and the addition of a unique panoramic camera ten years ago, the facility has surveyed the infrared sky to power an outpouring of ukirt-jan31-webscientific discovery. Studies of the distant Universe where all objects are highly redshifted benefit from UKIRT’s ability to detect and measure faint, red objects. Similarly, in the nearby Universe, newly formed stars are shrouded in reddening dust and very small stars shine dimly red. Both are visible to UKIRT.

Dr. Green will discuss the latest results on the most distant quasars, how galaxies evolve over cosmic time, and the ways that clouds of cold gas fragment and condense into clusters of newly formed stars. Since last November, UKIRT has been under new management. Not only will it continue to observe the most distant galaxies and quasars along with nearby stellar nurseries, it will also be used to characterize objects right next door, such as orbital space debris and asteroids coming very near the Earth.

The United Nations declared 2015 as the International Year of Light. Astronomers are actively participating to emphasize two aspects of light: Cosmic Light, which provides our key to the Universe beyond our planet, and Quality Light, the control of our nighttime lighting to save energy, preserve the biosphere, and protect the observatories that provide our gateway to the heavens from blinding glare.

Dr. Richard Green is the Assistant Director for Government Relations of Steward Observatory at the DrUniversity of Arizona. He graduated from Harvard College in 1971 and then went to graduate school in astronomy at CalTech. In 1983 he became a staff astronomer at Kitt Peak, and in 1992 he moved into management of the National Observatories. He was Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory from 1997 to 2005, and then was appointed the Director of the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory at the University of Arizona until 2013. Dr. Green  is now serving as Director of UKIRT Observatory here on the Island of Hawai’i. Green’s major research interests are in quasars and the early Universe, the cosmic history of chemical element abundances, dynamics of the nuclei of galaxies, and the end stages of stellar evolution.

Maunakea Skies program will be hosted by Cam Wipper, ‘Imiloa planetarium staff. He will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, pointing out prominent constellations and stars one can see during this time of year.

The 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 969-9703.

‘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) 969-9703.

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