Faulkes Telescope: Bringing the Universe to Class
The enclosure for the Faulkes Telescope as
it will look on Haleakala next year.
This fall the Universe came three giant steps closer to the
classrooms of Hawaii's schools and universities. On September 7, the University
of Hawaii Board of Regents approved the Operating and Site Development Agreement
for the Faulkes Telescope Project and the lease for the telescope site on Haleakala,
Maui. One week later, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the Institute
for Astronomy's Conservation District Use Application for the project. With
the achievement of these two milestones, the site was blessed on November 2,
and construction began in early December. The Faulkes Telescope will be the
largest telescope in the world dedicated to education and public outreach.
The IfA and the Faulkes Telescope Corporation (FTC) are
collaborating to build and operate the two-meter (eighty-inch) telescope. The
telescope's construction will be financed by the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust
of the United Kingdom (UK) and will be named in honor of Dr. Martin "Dill"
Faulkes, the founder of the trust. Telescope Technologies Ltd. in the UK is
building the telescope. Plans call for it to be operational in 2002.
The Faulkes Telescope Project's mission is to use young
people's interest in astronomy to teach them what science is. It will offer
students in the UK and Hawaii hands-on research experience. Students will conduct
research projects under the mentoring of their teachers and professional astronomers.
In Hawaii, access to the telescope will be available to public and private schools
and to the science programs of the University of Hawaii system and other local
The ceremonial blessing and groundbreaking
for the Faulkes Telescope took place at Haleakala's Science City.
The Faulkes Telescope will be operated remotely from control
centers in the UK and on Maui. No on-the-mountain operator will be needed. The
telescope's control system will determine if the weather is good enough to observe,
point the telescope, take the images requested, and then move to the next observation.
By directing the telescope's operations remotely over the Internet, students
will be able to access observing data in "real time" from their classrooms
or to request "robotic" observations much as professional astronomers
do with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronomers in Hawaii and the UK plan to engage students
in actual research projects that will be published in the scientific literature.
Students in Hawaii will be able to collaborate over the Internet with their
UK counterparts halfway around the world. Educational materials developed to
meet the needs of schools and colleges in one user community will be shared
with the other. In addition to its direct educational mission, the Faulkes Telescope
will provide observations to such users as the Bishop Museum and amateur astronomy