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Friends Hold First Annual Meeting

Shaunagh Robbins, Penny Kaiser, Esther Haas, and Helgard Kudritzki at the annual Friends meeting.

The Friends of Hawaii Astronomy, the support group affiliated with the IfA, kicked off the new year with its first annual meeting and reception in January 2004 at the home of attorneys Gary Galiher and Diane Ono, members of the Friends since 2001.

Institute Director Rolf-Peter Kudritzki presented the first Ambassador Awards to recognize individual contributions to astronomy outreach and education. The recipients for 2003 are Phil Whitney for his work in arranging astronomy-related talks in the community, and Jane Katayama, for her efforts to introduce and recruit new members to the Friends of Hawaii Astronomy. Each received a framed image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3621 taken by Kudritzki as part of his scientific research. Also, former IfA graduate student, Michael Cushing, who received his Ph.D. in December 2003, was recognized in absentia for his outstanding contributions to outreach and education throughout his tenure at the Institute (1997-2003).

Kudritzki reviewed the accomplishments of the Institute over the past year. He noted that citations of IfA research papers by other authors continued to place the Institute among the very top astronomy programs in the country. He mentioned several highlights:

  • The introduction of four new undergraduate courses, including a laboratory course that has proved so popular that there are three sections being offered during the spring 2004 semester.
  • Receipt of third-year federal funding for Pan-STARRS (wide-field survey telescope to detect asteroids and other objects with the potential to collide with and damage Earth).
  • Designation of UH as one of 16 interdisciplinary NASA Astrobiology Institute lead teams, under the leadership of IfA astronomer Karen Meech. UH will receive $5 million over five years for this project.

Kudritzki introduced faculty members Nick Kaiser and Paul Coleman, who provided brief updates about their respective projects, Pan-STARRS and the Faulkes educational telescope. The latter project illustrates the Institute's deep commitment, as a top-ranked astronomy research center, to further astronomy education and outreach in Hawaii as a means of improving the learning of science and mathematics for our children.

The evening concluded with an opportunity for the guests to view Saturn through one of the Dobsonian telescopes used in the laboratory course.