Faulkes Telescope Project Update
by Paul Coleman, IfA Faulkes Telescope Project Scientist
Faulkes Telescope North. Photo by Paul Coleman.
The Faulkes Telescope on Haleakala is almost ready to give
Hawaii students the kind of experiences that until now have
been available only to professional astronomers.
The Faulkes Telescope Project in Hawaii is a joint effort
of the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust and the IfA. Martin “Dill” Faulkes,
a British scientist and software developer, founded the trust,
which has financed two 2-meter telescopes—one in Hawaii
and one in Australia. The world’s largest telescopes
solely for education/public outreach, they are the culmination
of Faulkes’ wish to give something back to the educational
system that helped him become a success.
Hawaii’s children are about to benefit from that wish,
thanks to the efforts of many at the IfA, particularly James
Heasley, who shepherded the Haleakala telescope to its current
state of near-completion.
Image from the new Faulkes Telescope atop Haleakala: NGC 2207.
The Faulkes Telescope North, as the one on Haleakala is called,
is completely robotic and controllable from remote locations
such as class-rooms. Observations will be done in two modes:
off-line and real-time. The off-line observing mode will allow
users to request observations. The telescope will then observe
the specified objects and send the data to the requestor over
the Internet. Because of the time difference between the United
Kingdom and Hawaii, schoolchildren in the U.K. will be able
to make real-time optical observations from their classrooms
by operating the telescope through a Web browser. This real-time
mode will not be ideal for students in Hawaii, who will have
to stay up late for nighttime observations. However, the IfA
will donate an infrared camera to allow real-time infrared
observations in daylight.
Since an article about the Faulkes Telescope appeared in our
fall 2002 issue, many exciting things have happened. First,
the clamshell robotic enclosure was built. Then the telescope
was successfully reassembled on Haleakala by Telescope Technologies,
Limited, the British company that built the telescope, and
California-based Sea West Enterprises, which specializes in
The electronics systems were installed in May 2003, and the
telescope acquired its “first light” on the night
of August 7. On December 22, it delivered an early Christmas
present when it took its first three-color picture, of the
galaxy NGC 2207, using the 2048x2048-pixel CCD camera.
Faulkes image of NGC 4535
In the months ahead, the control software will become operational
and a few test observations will be made. An annual summer
training program for teachers who would like to use this unique
facility is in preparation.
If you are a teacher in Hawaii, register at our Web site to
take advantage of this unique opportunity when it becomes fully
available later this year. Go to http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/haleakala
and click on the Faulkes image.