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Seeing with Invisible Light

by vrecinto on November 30th, 2012

From the website

Next Maunakea Skies Talk December 15

Speaker:  Dr. Gary Davis, Director, Joint Astronomy Centre


Time: December 15, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) is one of two British telescopes on Maunakea. As the name implies, UKIRT specializes in the study of infrared light, which cannot be seen with the naked eye; in fact, for most of its 32 years of operation, UKIRT was the largest telescope in the world dedicated exclusively to infrared observations. This type of astronomy gives scientists the ability to study objects which cannot be seen using conventional optical astronomy, ranging from very nearby cool objects such as brown dwarfs to very distant galaxies in the early Universe.

In this presentation Dr. Davis will describe why astronomers undertake this challenging type of astronomy and the advantages of observing on Maunakea.  He will discuss what UKIRT has achieved over the past 3 decades and what the future holds for the telescope. He will also reflect on why astronomy is important as a means of understanding our place in the Universe and why science in general is such a valuable approach to understanding the world in which we live.

Dr. Gary Davis

Gary Davis has been the Director of the Joint Astronomy Centre and its two observatories — the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope — since August 2002.

Professor Davis was educated in Canada and England, receiving his doctorate from Oxford University in 1987.  He was a Professor of Physics and Engineering Physics at the University of Saskatchewan for 11 years and was highly decorated for his teaching, including the Master Teacher Award.  He holds honorary professorships at the Universities of Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Cardiff, and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from McMaster University.

Professor Davis’ research has focused on the formation and evolution of planetary systems, using various techniques of infrared spectroscopy from the ground and from space.  He has also developed several astronomical instruments, and led a feasibility study for measuring the Earth’s infrared spectrum as a template for studying extrasolar planets and the eventual search for life. As Director of the JAC for the past decade, he has overseen the evolution of UKIRT and the JCMT from general purpose observatories to highly productive survey instruments with unique capabilities based on world-leading technologies.

Maunakea Skies will be hosted by Shawn Laatsch, ‘Imiloa’s planetarium manager.  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 Saturday of each month. Cost is $5 for Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $3 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold and Corporate Members. Non-member rate is $8. 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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