The Maunakea Observatories and the Hawaii State Department of Education leadership gathered today at two Oahu high schools to make a special announcement to six lucky students. After a thorough selection process, the Maunakea Scholars Program has awarded students from both Nanakuli High School and Kapolei High School with observing time on several Maunakea telescopes to support their astronomical research.
"With the Maunakea Scholars Program, I will have the chance to study a black hole. Not many students my age get to say that," said Nanakuli High School junior and Maunakea Scholar, Amber Nakata. "I'm also looking forward to using this data to further develop my project for the rest of my high school career and, perhaps, into my college career as well."
The students were selected by a time allocation committee of professional astronomers after months of working alongside mentors, mostly from the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy. The students collaborated to analyze data and prepare professional-style research proposals. The winning proposals were selected based on technical viability, creativity, and scientific merit.
The committee selected these winning proposals from Nanakuli High School:
- Jasmine Atcherson was awarded 45 minutes of observing time with the Gemini North Observatory using the instrument GNIRS for her proposal "Rogue Planets."
- Amber Nakata was awarded 1.5 hours of observing time spread over 3 separate observing runs spanning 6-9 months with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope to monitor SS-433 using the instrument ESPaDOnS for her proposal "Eclipsing X-Ray Binary System."
The committee selected these winning proposals from Kapolei High School:
- Chantelle Lopez was awarded 1.2 hours of observing time with the Gemini North Observatory using the instrument GNIRS for her proposal "Spectroscopy of Hydrogen Rich Exoplanet Atmospheres."
- Emily Little was awarded 1 hour of observing time with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope using the instrument ESPaDOnS for her proposal "The Source of Earth's Water."
- Ashlyn Takamiya and Justin Fernando were awarded 2 hours of observing time with the Subaru Telescope using the instrument FOCAS for their proposal "Comparing Elements in Different Supernova Remnants."
"For almost two years, I've had the unique opportunity to work alongside Maunakea Scholars students as they formulate these ingenious proposals," said Mary Beth Laychak, outreach program manager at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. "Most of these students never thought they'd have access to the field of astronomy and it's remarkable to see the magic that occurs when they are provided with the tools and confidence to make it happen."Designed to bring Hawaii's high schoolers into one of the most advanced observatory communities, Maunakea Scholars helps aspiring astronomers envision their potential of pursuing a career in STEM-related fields. It the first program of its kind internationally to allocate observing time at major observatories for the direct educational advancement of high school students. To qualify, students in participating schools work with a mentor to conduct astronomical research and assemble a comprehensive proposal that can be conducted at an observatory. Selected proposals are then executed by participating observatories and students analyze the data under the guidance of their mentors.
The current cohort of Maunakea Scholars includes five local schools, including Kapolei High School, Kalani High School and Nanakuli High School on Oahu, and Waiakea High School and Honokaa High School on Hawaii Island. As of the 2016-2017 school year, five facilities allocate telescope time for student exploration, including Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), Gemini Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, (operated by East Asian Observatory), the Subaru Telescope and Robo-AO, a UH affiliated program. Programming and education partners also include Imiloa Astronomy Center.
Initiated by Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and Gemini Observatory, and in partnership with the Maunakea Observatories and the Hawaii State Department of Education, Maunakea Scholars successfully launched in 2015 to bring Hawaii's aspiring young astronomers into the observatory community. This is the first program of its kind internationally, leveraging the most powerful collection of telescopes in the world for the direct educational advancement of Hawaii's high school students.
About the Maunakea Observatories
The Maunakea Observatories are a collaboration of independent institutions with telescopes located on Maunakea on the island of Hawaii. Together, the Observatories make Maunakea the most scientifically productive site for astronomy world-wide. The Maunakea Observatories include: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Gemini International Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (EAO), NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Subaru Telescope, Submillimeter Array, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, University of Hawaii Hilo Educational Telescope, University of Hawaii 2.2 Meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array, W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II).