Four Kapolei High students selected to use a Maunakea observatory to study the stars


The first four students to get observatory time at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) under the new Maunakea Scholars program are from Kapolei High School. Congratulations to Ashley Cobbs, Nevyn Tyau, Jamie Valdez and David Zerba.

Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) Director Doug Simons and HIDOE Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi gathered with students and teachers today at an assembly at Kapolei High School for an exciting announcement. The new Maunakea Scholars program selected the first four students to receive observing time at one of the world's most powerful telescopes for their scientific research this semester.

The students have worked for months in teams of two alongside mentors from the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, analyzing data and preparing professional-style research proposals.

"To know that these astronomers went through some of the same doubts, fears, and excitement that the students were experiencing gave them the confidence and boost they needed to dedicate themselves to their proposals," said Naidah Gamurot, Kapolei High School teacher. "Many of these students have already changed as individuals, becoming truly self-motivated and excited by the possibilities of this research."

The Maunakea Scholars time allocation committee met in February to review the student proposals for viability, creativity and potential. The committee selected the first two winning proposals:

  • Ashley Cobbs and Nevyn Tyau were awarded 1-1.5 hours of observing time with the CFHT using the instruments WIRCam and/or ESPaDOnS for their research proposal, "Validating or Redefining Mischaracterized Unconfirmed Exoplanets."
  • Jamie Valdez and David Zerba were awarded 1-1.5 hours of observing time with the CFHT using the instrument ESPaDOnS for their research proposal, "Quasars and What They Are Made Of."

The next phase of project selection will take place this March and will award telescope time to the students of Waiakea High School in Hilo. The students will then have the opportunity to visit the telescopes at the science reserve atop Maunakea for an in-depth look at the science and technology taking place. The students will also visit CFHT's Waimea headquarters for a night of remote observing in the telescope control room, watching data stream live from the summit to computer systems in Waimea.

"As astronomers on Maunakea, it is critically important that we support the communities that we are a part of," said Doug Simons, director of CFHT. "I hope the Maunakea Scholars program can spark inspiration and love of learning that lasts a lifetime for these students, just as my mentors did for me as a kid."

The new program launching with Gamurot's students followed a collaboration last year with a virtual field trip to Gemini Observatory, in which Kapolei students used observatory data to create views of the universe that would be "understandable" to non-astronomers. (Learn more about the Live from Gemini program.)

The Maunakea Scholars program was created to bring Hawaii's aspiring young astronomers into the observatory community, competitively allocating observing time on a world-class telescope to local students. 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 collaborative 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 worldwide. 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, UKIRT Observatory, University of Hawaii Hilo Educational Telescope, University of Hawaii 2.2 Meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array and W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II).

Contact Information

Christine Matsuda Smith

Phone: 808-753-7134


How do I...?


View all FAQ's