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Technology to Tour the Universe: Subaru Telescope Supports ‘Imiloa Upgrades

by Brea Aamoth on March 3rd, 2016

 On January 27, 2016, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center hosted a private reception for corporate and gold members to preview three new exhibits made possible through the support of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and Subaru Telescope. Now on display in the ‘Imiloa Exhibit Hall, these exhibits offer dazzling technology which enables visitors to access—and even participate in—current astronomical research.

‘Imiloa’s intimate 3-D visualization space, the 4D2U Theatre, allows audiences to view astronomical data as if witnessing the unfolding of the universe. NAOJ donated the original 4D2U (“4D” for 3 dimensions of space plus time) Theatre when ‘Imiloa first opened in 2006, but their new technology upgrades now enable ‘Imiloa to offer customized “flyout” experiences, smoothly navigating from here on Earth through space to the edges of the known Universe. ‘Imiloa’s 4D2U Theatre remains the first and only system of its kind outside Japan.

‘Imiloa’s WorldWide Telescope exhibit is another visualization environment that enables visitors to step into a virtual telescope and navigate their way through images downloaded from the telescopes on Maunakea and elsewhere. Using simple hand motions, they are able to seamlessly pan and zoom across the night sky in a media-rich, immersive experience. The WorldWide Telescope uses open source software, so with the equipment donated by NAOJ, the possibilities are limitless!

Subaru Scientists explaining Project (PANOPTES)

Subaru Scientists explaining Project (PANOPTES)

The third exhibit introduces the Panoptic Astronomical Networked OPtical observatory for Transiting Exoplanets Survey project (PANOPTES) project, which is a “citizen science” effort being launched from Hilo to enable astronomy enthusiasts to help identify “candidate exoplanets” for large professional telescopes to follow up on. It is now believed that some percentage of exoplanets (planets orbiting stars) may have a surface temperature able to sustain liquid water and hence life outside our solar system.   PANOPTES will establish a network of robotic wide field imaging units that will be built and operated by citizen scientists using inexpensive digital cameras. One of these camera units has been donated and is currently on display in the ‘Imiloa Exhibit Hall.

Subaru Director Dr. Nobuo Arimoto

Subaru Director Dr. Nobuo Arimoto

The 2015 in-kind contributions from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and Subaru Telescope, including these three exhibits, totaled nearly $80,000 worth of technology, ranging from new computers and projectors to projector screens, iPads, 3-D glasses, and equipment hardware. Whereas the new exhibits are on public display for all ‘Imiloa visitors to experience, other pieces of the donated equipment will be powering ‘Imiloa’s work behind the scenes. These donations include a new Insta-On system that fully automates turning on and off the Exhibit Hall with a single switch; video monitors providing programming updates to diners in Sky Garden Restaurant; and a state-of-the-art ceiling-mounted projector and 248 ft. diagonal projection screen that bring video and presentations to life in Moanahōkū Hall!

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has been a strong supporter of UH Hilo since shortly after Subaru Telescope began operations in 1999, and, in turn, of the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center after it opened in 2006. ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka‘iu Kimura commented, “We at are deeply indebted to NAOJ and Subaru Telescope for their exemplary corporate citizenship and for the many contributions they have made through ‘Imiloa to benefit the entire Hawai‘i Island community. As ‘Imiloa celebrates the 10th anniversary of our 2006 opening, we salute the visionary leadership of NAOJ and Subaru for their vote of confidence in ‘Imiloa and our joint commitment to inspiring the next generation of explorers and innovators!”


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