Hōkū Ke‘a Observatory: News

This section presents news related to the development and operations of the new UH Hilo astronomical observatory.


(02/13/17)

An article on the UH88 and Hoku Kea appeared today in the Hawaii Tribune Herald: HTH UH Telescopes

(02/08/17)

We have been working on different aspects of the observatory in the past few weeks. We tested the cloud sensor device, which will provide nice feedback on conditions for remote and robotic observing. More importantly, we have now made significant progress on the echelle spectrograph.  Despite difficulty with the procurement of a good camera for it, we have now installed everything and so far so good (see pictures below). So, essentially the observatory two main isntruments - the imaging camera and the fiber-feb spectrograph - are ready to be used on the sky although we are looking for repairing a Apogee camera more suitable for the spectrograph.

We have also now been experimenting with the The SkyX software suite, which offers ways to integrate all the different components of the observatory within one single control environment. It is very powerful because it has also a large database of objects and a planetarium integrated to finding and pointing to an object and observing is very, very easy! We also have installed ACP, a software for robotic operations and will explore this possibility in the next few weeks.

Finally, we are now investigating a possible (private) site on the other side of the Big Island in order to install HKO on a temporary basis. We tested the site but we need more information before moving forward with the installation. Stay tuned!






(12/27/2016)

There is a nice article on our work on the HKO PlaneWave telescope in the UH Hilo Stories site:

https://hilo.hawaii.edu/news/stories/2016/12/23/hoku-kea-observatory/

We are also pleased to report that Callie's Nasa Space Grant traineeship award has been extended to the next semester! Our goals: get the spectrogrpha going, get the robotic modes available, evaluate a temporary site option and try the telescope under the night sky!

(11/21/2016)


Commissioning activities continue with the new observatory, currently focusing on the eShel spectrograph and the integration of software components. This past weekend, our NASA Grant Trainee, Callie Crowder went to a symposium in Honolulu to present her nice poster on our efforts and to run a demo of operating the telescope remotely from Oahu!




(10/20/2016)

We are making progress on enabling remote observing with the telescope. We can now control it completely from outside of the testing lab. We have webcams to watch the telescope motion and all of that is working really well! Remote observing will be the main mode of operations for the  observatory so this is important progress.




(10/11/2016)

We are continuing the testing phase of the new teescope and instruments. In the past few days, we have been obtaining a lot of calibration images to charaterize the imaging camera. Everything seems to be fine and details will apear on these pages shortly. The telescope is performing really well and we can't wait to have a site to do some astronomy!
Next step: assembly and testing of the fiber-feb spectrograph.

(09/28/16)

Testing is moving forward with the telescope and the instruments. We are currently testing the imaging camera and the filter wheels and everything is going smoothly (see picture). Next steps will include integration of software components and installling and testing the Shelyak echelle spectrograph on the second port of the telescope.



(09/13/16)

Today, we put the telescope together! Assembly mostly consisted in installing the upper truss, installing the support bolts on the telescope base, removing the mounting brackets, installing all the cables, mounting the rotators on both instrumentation ports, releasing the primary mirror protecting system, and testing the telescope motion through the computer! The end result is a superb, fonctioning telescope! We are now ready to proceed with the next phase of commissioning, that is, testing the instrumentation suite and the integration of all the software components.

   


 
 

(09/08/2016)

We spent some time today inspecting the telescope and its components, just to make sure every was there and in good shape. Looks good! We hope to have the telescope in the lab all ready for testing and integration within the next couple of weeks. A lot of fun ahead!

   
     


(09/02/2016)

The most excellent news! The PlaneWave CDK700  0.7 meter telescope has arrived at UH Hilo! Delivery  was a bit delayed due to hurricane Madeline but everything arrived safe and sound. No need to say that it is a very exciting day and a major milestone for our project. In the coming days, we will inspect and start assembly. Then we will proceed with the integration of the software components and the instruments, and testing of different aspects of operations. We do not know yet when the telescope will see its first light of the Hawaiian skies - and where that will be - but we are working really hard to enable the observatory as quickly as possible.

In other news, one of UH Hilo astronomy majors, Callie Crowder, has started her NASA Space Grant traineeship with us, working on testing and characterizing different components of the Hōkū Kea Observatory. Today, we traveled to CFHT headquarters in Waimea to use their spectrophotometer (thanks guys!) to establish the characteristics of the new filters we puchased for the HKO imaging camera. All the filters meet specifications and details will be available shortly on this site.

In summary: a very good day!


     


(08/30/2016)

The telescope left the PlaneWave warehouse in LA today and should be delivered to UH Hilo this Friday!!! Since it's hurricane time in Hawaii, let's hope the weather is good enough...


(08/18/2016)

We have received the test report on the CDK700 telescope done by PlaneWave Instruments today (see telescope section under "Facility"). Tests done in sub-arsecond seeing skies in LA(!) show that the optical and mechanicall components of the telescope are indeed excellent. Pointing and tracking are exceptional and images show good image quality all over the field of view. PlaneWave will be crating the telescope and shipping it to Hawaii in the coming days!!

(08/11/2016)

Good news from PlaneWave Instruments: Our CDK700 0.7 meter telescope is essentially completed and has been succesfully tested on the sky. It will be shipped to Hawaii very soon! We will then have all the components to start integration of the entire observatory,,minus a site...



(07/20/2016)

A big day for our project! We received the AstroHaven dome and it has been put into storage for a while, until we install it on a temporary site. The operation was not trivial and necessitated the help of many people. So, thank you all and we are looking forward to put it all back together soon. ;)




(07/18/2016)

Some very good news today! The HKO dome will be delivered to the UHH campus on Wednesday morning. It will be stored for a while until we find a place to install it and test it as a temporary facility. The construction of the CDK700 telescope is well underway at PlaneWave Instruments and it should arrived in Hilo by the end of August! Finally, we are proud to announce that one of our UHH P&A students, Callie Crowder, has obtained a NASA Space Grant trainee fellowship to work with us on the integration of the observatory components for the Fall 2016. Congrats Callie!

(07/12/2016)

Today we received the FLI 4k x 4k CCD camera and its two filter wheels! Used with filters (see the bank available for HKO here), this camera will be installed at the main imaging port of the CDK700 telescope. It will provide a field-of-view of about 30 arcminutes, with sub-arcsecond image quality.  Also. our dome has arrived in Hilo and will be delivered to our campus in the coming days!



(07/06/2016)

We have just been informed that the AstroHaven 18-foot dome was shipped a few days ago from Arizona and should arrive in Hilo in a couple of weeks!





(07/05/2016)

Today, we have received the Shelyak echelle spectrograph (eShel). This is going to be an instrument mounted on the "spectro" port of the telescope. It employs a diffraction grating as a dispersive element (for a specral resolution of about R = 10000) and it captures the light from the telescope through an optical fiber. The spectrograph came complete with internal calibration lamps and a guiding system. It will be a very nice setup for stellar and planetary astrophysics!


(07/01/2016)

Some very good news for Hōkū Kea! The clamshell AstroHaven dome is completed and will be shipped to Hilo in mid-July. The 18-foot dome was recently assembled and demonstrated at the AAS meeting in San Diego, where the HKO Director was present. The dome is GORGEOUS and  was quite a show in the exhibit hall (see pictures).




See a full video description of the AstroHaven dome here.

Also, we are working with PlaneWave Instruments to have the CDK700 0.7 meter telescope built and shipped to us earlier than expected. We could receive it as early as August, 2016! Stay tuned!


(05/26/2016)

UH Hilo is working very diligently on the development of its new educational astronomical observatory. We have received many components already (computers, storage infrastructure, filters, etc.). The AstroHaven 18-foot clamshell dome is being built (see picture below) and will be on display at the AAS 228th meeting in San Diego in a few weeks. It will then be shipped and delivered in HIlo in mid-July, 2016. The PlaneWave CDK700 0.7-meter telescope has been ordered and is expected to be delivered by the end of 2016 or early 2017. The instrumentation suite, which includes a CCD camera system and a fiber-fed echelle spectrograph should arrive shortly.

AstroHaven 18-foot dome in April, 2016


The immediate plan is to start the integration of these components in the Fall 2016. The dome is likely to be installed on the UH Hilo campus for testing and we will also characterize the instruments and implement the observing environment software. Since our goal is to bring the observatory into operations as quickly as possible when the telescope is delivered, integrating all of these components together will save us a lot of time. 

  • In the meantime, discussions regarding a permanent site are ongoing. It is not clear if the current location on Maunakea will be decommissioned or not (at the time of writing, UH Hilo has paused its decommissioning process in order to consult with the local communities). UH Hilo is studying other options as well. Because of these uncertainties, an exact timeframe for when the observatory will become available cannot be brought forward at the moment. So, the answer is: as soon as possible! 
  • We are also pleased to report that we are working with diverse local community groups (e.g. PUEO) to investigate how we will make Hōkū Ke‘a available to keiki. We are also interacting closely with the UH-Manoa undergraduate program in astronomy who will eventually use Hōkū Ke‘a for their laboratories and student projects.  
  • This is all VERY exciting and we cannot wait to get our educational observatory going!  We will try to provide as many updates as possible here... so stay in touch! 
  •                                                                                                                                                       - R. Pierre Martin, HKO Director