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Earth is orbited by thousands of artificial satellites, but only one large, natural Moon. Eight years ago, researchers at the IfA predicted that there must be a population of small, natural 'minimoons' that temporarily orbit Earth. On November 22, a team of 23 researchers from 14 academic institutions announced a study on the second minimoon ever discovered, dubbed 2020 CD3.
To trace the volatile elements that form the atmospheres of planets, NASA's Astrobiology Program awarded a five-year, $5-million grant to an interdisciplinary consortium, including researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi. The award will help establish a scientific foundation for detecting the signatures of life on other worlds.
Earth has captured a tiny object from its orbit about the Sun and will keep it as a temporary satellite for a few months before it escapes. But the object is not an asteroid; it's likely an upper stage booster rocket that helped lift NASA's ill-fated Surveyor 2 spacecraft toward the Moon in 1966. Our Pan-STARRS1 telescope atop Haleakalā spotted the object in September 2020.
A collaboration between the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) radio telescope in Europe and two telescopes on the summit of Maunakea, the Gemini Observatory and the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF), has led to the first direct discovery of a cold brown dwarf from its radio emission. In addition to demonstrating a new way for future brown dwarf discoveries, this result is an important step towards applying radio astronomy to the exciting field of exoplanets.
Thousands were mesmerized by a mysterious flurry of lights that appeared to float above Hawaiʻi's evening sky on Saturday, October 24. Photos and videos of the string of lights flooded social media, leaving many to believe the sighting could be anything from a spaceship carrying extra terrestrials to a meteor shower. IfA astronomer Richard Wainscoat believes onlookers witnessed the reentry of a spent rocket booster used to launch Venezualan satellite, Venesat-1, back in 2008.
IfA astronomer David Tholen and his team have revealed critical new findings linked to a large asteroid expected to pass extremely close to Earth. They announced the detection of Yarkovsky acceleration on the near-Earth asteroid Apophis. This acceleration arises from an extremely weak force on an object due to non-uniform thermal radiation. This force is particularly important for the asteroid Apophis, as it affects the probability of an Earth impact in 2068.
Three finalists have been identified for the position of IfA director. The finalists are each scheduled for virtual visits over a three-day period with participants on the islands of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi and Maui. The visits include: department discussions; meetings with senior administrators, faculty, staff, students and internal and external constituents; and a public presentation. The finalist are:
Laura Ferrarese, Principal Research Officer at Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre (and former Director, Gemini Observatory)
Kenneth Chambers, Astronomer and Director, Pan STARRS Observatory, IfA
Douglas Simons, Executive Director, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
A team of astronomers at the IfA has produced the world's largest three-dimensional astronomical imaging catalog of stars, galaxies and quasars. The team used data from the Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope on Haleakalā. IfA astronomers applied novel computational tools to the catalog, to decipher which of the 3 billion objects are stars, galaxies or quasars. For the galaxies, the software also derived estimates of their distances. The resulting 3D catalog is now available as a high-level science product through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes.
Large reflecting mirrors lie at the heart of the world's most powerful telescopes that observe distant galaxies, stars and planets. A company formed by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) scientists and students through UH's innovation incubator has demonstrated a new way to shape thin mirror surfaces using high-power lasers.
An innovative new instrument built by a team at the IfA, Caltech and W.M. Keck Observatory provides adaptive optics (AO) correction using objects invisible to the naked eye. The AO system includes an innovative infrared pyramid wavefront sensor that can detect exoplanets and young dwarf stars where planet formation commonly occurs.
What does our own galaxy look like? It's hard to tell because we are inside. A new project, led by IfA astronomer Dan Huber, will change that. Huber and his team are planning to create the largest 3D map ever constructed of stars in the outer regions of the Milky Way, with a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
For more than three decades, technology development at the IfA has been a prime mover in federally funded astronomy programs, according to a study published in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems. The authors tracked the impact of National Science Foundation (NSF) grants for astronomy technology and instrumentation development over the last 30 years.
IfA alumnus Jeff Rich has checked off a big bucket list item. Rich, who earned a PhD in astronomy in 2012 will appear on the season premiere of hit TV game show Jeopardy! on Monday, September 14
Astronomers have known for two decades that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, but the physics of this expansion remains a mystery. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have made a novel prediction - the dark energy responsible for this accelerating growth comes from a vast sea of compact objects spread throughout the voids between galaxies. This conclusion is part of a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Astronomers have known for two decades that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, but the physics of this expansion remains a mystery. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have made a novel prediction—the dark energy responsible for this accelerating growth comes from a vast sea of compact objects spread throughout the voids between galaxies. This conclusion is part of a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal.Two Maui middle schoolers spotted a 250-pound space satellite projected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere on Saturday, August 29. Scientists expect the inoperative satellite, OGO-1, to break up over the South Pacific, away from inhabited areas at around 10:45 a.m. HST.
University of Hawaiʻi scientists are leading one of the newly announced Key Projects on a worldwide network of telescopes called the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) global telescope network. Using thousands of hours of observing time, they will investigate the neighborhoods of young stars where planets are thought to be forming.
On July 20, our Pan-STARRS1 telescope discovered an asteroid 65 feet in diameter that appeared likely to pass close to Earth. Some of the first follow-up images of the approaching asteroid were taken by Hawaiʻi high school students participating in the IfA's HI STAR program, using telescopes from the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) global telescope network.
An asteroid discovered on July 20 by the University of Hawaiʻi's Pan-STARRS1 telescope atop Haleakalā will make a close pass of Earth on Monday, July 27. At its closest point, the asteroid will be only about 1.7 times the distance of the Moon.
A team of astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi was awarded a $1 million grant to upgrade the UH 2.2-meter telescope on Maunakea, giving the mountain's first large telescope a leg up on its larger, newer neighbors, with more nimble, streamlined operations.
For the past decade, an international team of astronomers, led in part by Brent Tully at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, has been mapping the distribution of galaxies around the Milky Way. They have discovered an immense structure beyond Laniakea, an immense supercluster of galaxies, including our own. Astronomers have dubbed the newly identified structure the South Pole Wall.
June 30th is Asteroid Day, marking the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska impact which leveled trees and destroyed forests across 770 square miles of Siberia. IfA's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is featured in today's United Nations News, as "Earth's last Defence" against asteroids.
The University of Hawaiʻi's 88-inch telescope is celebrating its Golden Anniversary on June 26th. Often called the UH88, the telescope was dedicated on this date in 1970, beginning decades of incredible scientific output, and ushering in an era of unparalleled astronomy from Maunakea. Now, 50 years later, the observatory continues to modernize and pave the way for others.
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa astronomers are part of an international team that recently discovered an infant planet around a nearby young star. The discovery was reported today in the international journal Nature. The planet is about the size of Neptune, but, unlike Neptune, it is much closer to its star, taking only eight and a half days to complete one orbit. It is named "AU Mic b" after its host star, AU Microscopii.
While the world has been dealing with the corona-virus pandemic, researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) have been hard at work studying the solar corona, the outermost atmosphere of the Sun which expands into interplanetary space. A new study by IfA graduate student Benjamin Boe used total solar eclipse observations to measure the shape of the coronal magnetic field with higher spatial resolution and over a larger area than ever before.
Recently discovered object 2019 LD2, originally believed to be the first cometary “Jupiter Trojan” asteroid by astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy turns out to be an interloper comet masquerading as a member of the Trojan population.
Asteroids and comets are often thought of as distinct types of small bodies, but astronomers have discovered an increasing number of "crossovers." These objects initially appear to be asteroids, and later develop activity, such as tails, that are typical of comets. The University of Hawaiʻi's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is now behind the discovery of the first known Jupiter Trojan asteroid to have sprouted a comet-like tail.
Over the past two decades, astronomers have concluded that most, if not all, galaxies host massive black holes at their centers - and the masses of a black hole and its host galaxy are correlated. But how are the two connected? Now, a student participating in the IfA Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, may have revealed part of the answer.
New evidence shows the first-ever pictures capturing the birth of a pair of planets orbiting the star PDS 70 are in fact authentic. Astronomers from the IfA were part of a Caltech-led team that used a new infrared pyramid wavefront sensor for adaptive optics (AO) correction at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea. The team applied a new method of taking family photos of the baby planets ("protoplanets") and confirmed their existence.
Ellis Avallone, a second-year graduate student at the IfA has received the 2020 American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Physics Division Popular Writing Award. She explained the role of the Sun's rotation rate during the formation of the solar system.
By "listening" to the beating hearts of stars, an international team of astronomers including researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa detected a rhythm of life for a class of stellar objects that puzzled scientists until now.
A team of researchers recently released some of the sharpest images of Jupiter ever taken from the ground. Images captured with the Gemini North telescope on Maunakea help reveal how the planet's massive storms form and confirm dark spots in its famous Great Red Spot are gaps not a variation in cloud color. Some of the key observations in the study were obtained with the Near Infrared Imager (NIRI), an instrument built by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy.
Working on their own time, IfA's Lou Robertson, Bill Unruh, and Jessica Young utilized our machine shop to produce precision parts for Hawaiʻi's home-grown Kahanu ventilator production. They also 3-D printed facemasks for donation to medical facilities.
A team of astronomers led by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy has discovered a planet three times the mass of Jupiter in a distant planetary system, as they seek to find out if other planetary systems have gravitational gods like Jupiter.
We are extremely sad to report that Donald N.B. Hall, Astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA), passed away on the morning of March 18th, 2020, after suffering a heart attack. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, students, and colleagues. Further information will be provided when it becomes available.
Due to COVID-19, UH is cancelling all events with over 100 attendees. Our annual Open House will be postponed to the fall semester. We will miss you all, and please be safe!
Researchers and the general public are getting a glimpse of the most detailed view ever of the Sun, thanks to the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) on Haleakalā, Maui. The imagery, released January 29, 2020, shows cell-like structures the size of Texas roiling on the Sun's surface and the tiny footprints of magnetism that reach into space.
University of Hawaiʻi astronomer Shadia Rifai Habbal travels the globe to capture total solar eclipses — when the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a phenomenon that has captivated humans for centuries. Now the award-winning astronomy professor's quest to hunt down solar eclipses is at the center of childrenss book "Eclipse Chaser: Science in the Moon's Shadow," by local author Ilima Loomis.
The 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society is at the Hawaii Convention Center Jan. 4th-8th. Over 3400 astronomers are attending, making it the largest AAS meeting ever. Public events include:
Sunday, January 5th, 7-9PM: Stargazing at Ala Moana Beach Park (Map)
Monday, January 6th, 7-8:30PM: Free Public Talk at Hawaii Convention Center, Physics of Pō (details)
Astronomers now have a new pair of eyes to detect meteors over Hawaiʻi using a state-of-the-art monitoring system installed on the rooftops of existing building on Maunakea and Haleakalā. The high-speed video devices are now fully operational and part of an expanding network of identical cameras in the Automated Meteor Observation System (AMOS).
A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) graduate student received a three-year NASA fellowship that sponsors rising STEM scientists who will support future NASA discoveries. She is the first UH student to receive this award, worth $55,000 a year.
For the first time, astronomers have witnessed the immediate aftermath of a star being violently ripped apart by a supermassive black hole. The observations were published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal. IfA's Benjamin Shappee is part of the team of astronomers led by Carnegie Observatories' Thomas Holoien. Both are founding members of the Ohio State University-based All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN)
Two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers have identified and corrected a subtle error that was made when applying Einstein's equations to model the growth of the universe. The results suggest that compact objects like black holes could be made of dark energy.
The existing astronomical observatories on Maunakea returned to operations this weekend, and it didn't take long for a significant result to be achieved, not only for science, but for assuring the safety of the Earth. Observations of the near-Earth asteroid 2006 QV89 made on August 11 with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) have ruled out any potential future impact threat to the Earth by this asteroid for the next century.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.1 million grant to a University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) scientist to install a high-tech shape-shifting secondary mirror on the UH 2.2-meter telescope on Maunakea.
NASA awarded three graduate students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) grants, providing $45,000 annually for up to three years for their contributions toward reaching science, technology and exploration goals. One of the awardees is our own Travis Berger. The others are atmospheric science student Madeline McKenna and physics student Cory Gerrity. UHM and UChicago were the only universities to have three awardees, the most of any schools this year.
An astronomer from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and an international team published a new study that reveals more of the vast cosmic structure surrounding our Milky Way galaxy.
NASA has awarded a contract to the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy to continue to manage and operate the agency's Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunakea. The potential value of the contract is approximately $30 million. About 30 IfA researchers and staff based in Hilo and Honolulu are involved in supporting the IRTF, which started operations 40 years ago this month.
An international team of asteroid and comet experts, including two from the University of Hawaiʻi, agrees on a natural origin for our first interstellar visitor.
For the first time, astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi have demonstrated that their ATLAS and Pan-STARRS survey telescopes can provide sufficient warning to move people away from the impact site of an incoming asteroid. They detected a small asteroid prior to its entering the Earth's atmosphere near Puerto Rico on the morning of June 22, 2019.
Gov. David Ige announced that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded an assistant astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy one of its most prestigious awards for junior faculty. Xudong Sun received a $620,590 grant for a five-year term from the NSF Faculty Early Career Development program. The award is bestowed on teacher-scholars pursuing cutting-edge research while simultaneously advancing excellence in education.
A team of astronomers, including Nader Haghighipour from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, have discovered a third planet in the circumbinary planetary system Kepler-47. This discovery cements the system's title as the most interesting of the binary-star worlds, and marks the first complete and dynamically full planetary system around a binary star.
Astronomers once thought asteroids were boring, wayward space rocks that simply orbit around the Sun. New observations are turning these ideas on their heads, showing that asteroids are anything but dull. Asteroid Gault, discovered in 1998, has begun to slowly disintegrate. The crumbling was first detected on Jan. 5, 2019 by the IfA's ATLAS telescopes on Maunaloa and Haleakalā. Spectacular images of asteroid 6478 Gault from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show two narrow, comet-like tails of debris streaming from the diminutive 2.5-mile-wide asteroid.
The Kepler Space Telescope was launched ten years ago ans has discovered thousands of exoplanets. Today, an international team of astronomers, led by University of Hawaiʻi graduate student Ashley Chontos, announced the confirmation of the very first exoplanet candidate identified by that mission.
Daniel Huber, an Assistant Astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been selected for a prestigious 2019 Sloan Research Fellowship, one of 126 recipients across the U.S. and Canada.
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA), is releasing the second edition of data from Pan-STARRS — the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System — the world's largest digital sky survey.
Ann Merchant Boesgaard, Professor of Astronomy, Emerita at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been awarded the 2019 Henry Norris Russell Lectureship by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The Russell Prize is the AAS' highest award, and is bestowed annually on the basis of a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research.
A team of astronomers has discovered the most distant body ever observed in our solar system. It is the first known solar system object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.
The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie Observaties' Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaiiʻs David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo.
A supernova discovered by an international group of astronomers has provided an unprecedented look at the first moments of a violent stellar explosion. The team, led in part by IfA Astronomer Ben Shappee, found a mysterious signature in the light from the explosion's first hour. Follow-up obervations suggest that the traditional original theory for these tupes of supernovae is wrong.
The Star Wars universe turned from science fiction to science fact for a Waipahu High School student, who observed a real-life "Tatooine" using one of the largest, most scientifically-impactful observatories in the world.
The Maunakea Visitor Information Station (VIS) on Hawaiʻi Island will adjust its closing time from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Sunday, December 9, for an infrastructure project that will improve visitor safety and to better protect natural, historic and cultural resources. Preparations will begin in December with construction slated to start in January 2019. The project is expected to take about six months.
A team of astronomers, including IfA's David Sanders and former IfA postdoc Mike Koss, have used the W. M. Keck Observatory on Muanakea and the Hubble Space Telescope to complete the most detailed census of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies. The team's findings support the theory that galaxy mergers explain how some supermassive black holes become so monstrously large.
Astronomers have discovered a new object at the edge of our Solar System. The new extremely distant object far beyond Pluto has an orbit that supports the presence of a larger Planet X. The newly found object, called 2015 TG387, was announced by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center on Monday, October 1, 2018.
The University of Hawaiʻi is delighted to announce that the Paul H.I. Coleman Scholarship fund is now more than halfway to the goal of raising a $100,000 endowment to support local high school graduates who choose to study astronomy at UH.
The IfA's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), a NASA-funded telescope network devoted to detecting space rocks that could crash into Earth, will expand into the Southern Hemisphere, which currently lacks a large-scale asteroid-surveillance effort. The additional observatories will not only spot asteroids that could harm people, but also detect comets, supernovae and other benign celestial objects.
Dr. Benjamin J. (BJ) Fulton, who received his doctorate from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA) in 2017, has been awarded the Robert J. Trumpler Award, given by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to recognize a recent PhD thesis considered unusually important to astronomy. He is the third IfA gradute to receive the award in the past five years.
When it comes to extrasolar planets, appearances can be deceiving. Astronomers from Hawaiʻ and elsewhere have imaged a new planet, and it appears nearly identical to one of the best studied gas-giant planets. But this doppelgänger differs in one very important way: its origin.
A multinational team of scientists has just found the first fragments of the small asteroid 2018 LA, which exploded harmlessly high above Africa on June 2. The University of Hawaiʻi's Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescope took the final images of 2018 LA before it entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded.
Astronomers and physicists around the world, including here in Hawaiʻi, have begun to unravel a long-standing cosmic mystery. Using a vast array of telescopes in space and on Earth, they have identified a source of cosmic rays-highly energetic particles that continuously rain down on Earth from space. In a paper published this week in the journal
The interstellar object ʻOumuamua was discovered back on October 19, 2017, but the puzzle of its true nature has taken months to unravel, and may never be fully solved. Today, an international team led by IfA graduate Marco Micheli and IfA Astronomer Karen Meech reports that it might be a comet, and not an asteroid as initially thought.
Four current and former doctoral students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) have been recognized for outstanding research.
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa astronomer John Tonry has been named as one of the National Academy of Sciences' 84 newly chosen members. Tonry, who has been with the UH Mānoa Institute for Astronomy since 1996, joins an elite group of fewer than 2,400 exceptional scientists worldwide. NAS members are recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
Today, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), its newest telescope to search for planets beyond our Solar System, and astronomers from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy and Maunakea telescopes will be a part of the adventure.
Paul Coleman, an astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, passed away at his home on January 16th, 2018. Paul was the first Native Hawaiian with a doctorate in astrophysics. In his 15 years with the IfA, Paul played a key role in our education and public outreach efforts, and advocated tirelessly for astronomy in Hawaiʻi.
The University of Hawaiʻi ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) telescope on Mauna Loa captured images on February 8, 2018 of the Tesla Roadster launched into space as part of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test.
Extremely distant galaxies are usually too faint to be seen, even by the largest telescopes. But nature has a solution - gravitational lensing, predicted by Albert Einstein and observed many times by astronomers. Now, an international team of astronomers led by Harald Ebeling from the University of Hawaii has discovered one of the most extreme instances of magnification by gravitational lensing.