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by vrecinto on December 6th, 2014


Next Maunakea Skies Talk December 19, 2014

Speakers: Dr. Olivier Guyon and Dr. Josh Walawender, Subaru Telescope-NAOJ

Topic: Observing Exoplanets with Small and Large Telescopes

Time: Friday, December 19, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

Over the last 20 years, astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets. Thanks to recent technological advances, the pace of discovery is accelerating, and Earth-sized planets are now detectable around other stars. The prospects for life outside the solar system look excellent, with 10% to 40% of stars hosting potentially habitable Earth-sized planets with a surface temperature able to sustain liquid water. The search for exoplanets is done with a wide range of techniques, each making rapid progress. Very small telescopes can be used to find new planets by monitoring a large number of stars to search for planet transits.

Dr. Guyon and Dr. Walawender will present the Panoptic Astronomical Networked OPtical observatory for Transiting Exoplanets Survey project (PANOPTES), which is establishing a network of robotic wide field imaging units built and operated by citizen scientists. Each unit uses inexpensive digital cameras to find large planets. The full network can find smaller planets by combining many measurements. Once found, exoplanets can be observed with large professional telescopes for detailed study. Astronomers are developing cameras optimized for directly imaging exoplanets with large telescopes, which requires unconventional optics to remove the bright glare of the star around which a planet orbits. Thanks to these instruments, scientists will soon measure the composition of potentially habitable exoplanets’ atmospheres and surfaces, and search for evidence of biological activity.

Dr. Olivier Guyon is an astronomer at the Subaru Telescope-NAOJ. He started looking at stars from theguyon 14 age of 10, and he is now both an avid amateur astronomer and a professional astronomer. Olivier has been developing new techniques for imaging exoplanets (planets around other stars) from telescopes on Earth and also future telescopes in space. In 2007, Olivier received a Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers award from President Bush at the White House. Olivier received in 2012, the MacArthur fellowship (nicknamed the “Genius grant”) for his innovative work in astronomical optics. In his spare time, he builds telescopes which he then uses to observe from the clear skies of Maunakea and Maunaloa.

walawenderDr. Josh Walawender is an astronomer at the Subaru Telescope-NAOJ on Maunakea. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of California at Berkeley and his PhD at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Josh’s research interests lie in the area of star formation and he has worked extensively on building and operating “small” (0.1 to 1 meter) robotic telescopes. Josh has been an avid amateur astronomer since childhood and still enjoys observing sessions under Hawai’i Island’s pristine skies.

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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