Three ambitious Kalani High School students will conduct sophisticated astronomical research using some of the world's most powerful telescopes. Today, the aspiring astronomers were awarded time to use two Maunakea observatories as a part of the Maunakea Scholars program-an innovative partnership between the Maunakea Observatories and the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE).
Working alongside Institute for Astronomy graduate student mentors at the University of Hawaii, the students developed professional-style research proposals for the review and selection of the Maunakea Scholars time allocation committee. "These students have taken a huge leap, taking on the biggest questions about the universe and designing their own educational pathways," said Bryan Silver, Kalani High School teacher. "Nowhere else in the world can students experience this type of hands-on learning. These observatories, and this program, is a resource Hawaii's students are fortunate to have access to."
The committee selected the three winning proposals:
- Spencer Young was awarded two hours of observing time with the East Asian Observatory (EAO) using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) POL-2 instruments for his research proposal, "Star forming regions and how they retain their shapes."
- David Higashi was awarded one hour of observing time with Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) using the instrument ESPaDOnS for his research proposal, "The Creation of the Moon."
- Jordaynelexi Drasal was awarded 30 minutes of observing time with CFHT using the instrument Megacam for her research proposal, "Globular Star Clusters."
"We're grateful for the opportunity to open our doors to these incredible students," said Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT outreach program manager. "The Maunakea Scholars program is a spark of inspiration for the physicists, engineers, chemists and explorers of tomorrow. We want to help students gain a competitive advantage not just for college, but heading into the science workforce as well."
Kalani High School is the first of five schools state-wide to be allotted time at a Maunakea observatory this school year, to be followed by Kapolei and Nanakuli High Schools on Oahu and Honokaa and Waiakea on Hawaii Island in early 2017. In the spring, the students will have the opportunity to tour the facilities at the science reserve atop Maunakea for a close-up look at the science and technology astronomers work with every day. Students will then head to their respective telescopes during a night watching data stream live from the summit to computer systems at the observatory's base facilities.
Now in its second year, Maunakea Scholars has expanded with more schools and observatories committing to the initiative. In addition to the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and Gemini Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, operated by East Asian Observatory, Subaru Telescope on Maunakea and Robo-AO on Kitt Peak in Arizona through the University of Hawaii, have joined the efforts to offer this innovative, first-of-its-kind educational experience for local students in Hawaii.
Designed to bring students into the observatory community and help aspiring astronomers to envision their potential of pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, Maunakea Scholars is the first program of its kind internationally to allocate observing time at major observatories for the direct educational advancement of 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).