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Pan-STARRS Consortium

Pan-STARRS 1 on the summit of Haleakala is expected to discover billions of new stars, galaxies, and solar system objects including potential "killer asteroids" that threaten Earth. Photo by Rob Ratkowski, HAA Maui.

Astronomers from several major research institutions around the world have signed an agreement with IfA to make use of a revolutionary new survey telescope on Haleakala on Maui. The PS1 Science Consortium will contribute about $10 million to cover the cost of operating the telescope in Hawaii.

The PS1 telescope is expected to discover billions of new stars, galaxies, and solar system objects, including potential "killer asteroids" that threaten Earth. It will also produce the most detailed three-dimensional map of the Universe ever made.

Over 30 world-renowned scientists and their graduate students have committed themselves to analyzing the unprecedented flood of data from PS1 over the next three and half years.

"We decided to recruit a number of top astronomers to join us in order to make the best use of this fantastic instrument," said IfA astronomer Kenneth Chambers, who, as project scientist, is responsible for carrying out the PS1 survey.

"We are delighted to have assembled such a powerful consortium," said IfA Director Rolf Kudritzki. "From Germany we have the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching. From the USA we have the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Johns Hopkins University, and Las Cumbres Observatory. From the United Kingdom, we have Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, and Queen's University Belfast."

"Pan-STARRS is the next critical step in mapping the Universe. Our scientists are eagerly awaiting the first data for a large range of astronomical projects," said Harvard Professor of Cosmology John Huchra.

The PS1 telescope has been developed by IfA astronomers. It is the first stage of the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) project, which is the brainchild of IfA's Nick Kaiser.

The telescope, which has a 1.8-meter (71-inch) diameter mirror, achieved first light in June 2006. It is currently undergoing engineering tests and will become fully operational in 2007. It will soon be equipped with the world's largest digital camera, now under construction at the IfA's Manoa headquarters under the leadership of John Tonry. The camera will have 1.4 billion pixels—about 300 times as many as an ordinary digital camera.