Pleiades cluster
Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai`i University of Hawai`i Institute for Astronomy
mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

       News & Events from the IfA

Maintained by NR,RRG



Support our goals by joining the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

Press release feed:    RSS feed

Friends of the IfA on
  Facebook Facebook




































May 3, 2018: University of Hawaiʻi Astronomer John Tonry Elected to National Academy of Sciences

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa astronomer John Tonry has been named as one of the National Academy of Sciences' 84 newly chosen members. Tonry, who has been with the UH Mānoa Institute for Astronomy since 1996, joins an elite group of fewer than 2,400 exceptional scientists worldwide. NAS members are recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Press Release


April 18, 2018: UH Astronomers to Uncover the Secrets of Stars and Exoplanets with NASA's TESS Satellite

Today, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), its newest telescope to search for planets beyond our Solar System, and astronomers from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy and Maunakea telescopes will be a part of the adventure.

Press Release


In Memoriam: Paul Coleman

Paul Coleman, an astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, passed away at his home on January 16th, 2018. Paul was the first Native Hawaiian with a doctorate in astrophysics. In his 15 years with the IfA, Paul played a key role in our education and public outreach efforts, and advocated tirelessly for astronomy in Hawaiʻi.



February 9, 2018: UH ATLAS Telescope spots SpaceX Tesla Roadster in Flight

ATLAS observation of Tesla Roadster in flight

The University of Hawaiʻi ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) telescope on Mauna Loa captured images on February 8, 2018 of the Tesla Roadster launched into space as part of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test.

Press Release


January 31, 2018: Natural Telescope Sets New Magnification Record

Extremely distant galaxies are usually too faint to be seen, even by the largest telescopes. But nature has a solution - gravitational lensing, predicted by Albert Einstein and observed many times by astronomers. Now, an international team of astronomers led by Harald Ebeling from the University of Hawaii has discovered one of the most extreme instances of magnification by gravitational lensing.

Press Release


December 14, 2017: IfA Director Günther Hasinger Appointed As ESA Director of Science

University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) Director Günther Hasinger will be leaving UH to be the next Director of Science at the European Space Agency (ESA), Europe's equivalent to NASA.

UH will name an interim Director for the IfA and begin a search for a new Director.

UH Press Release


December 7, 2017: Galaxy Orbits in the Local Supercluster

A team of astronomers from Maryland, Hawaii, Israel, and France has produced the most detailed map ever of the orbits of galaxies in our extended local neighborhood, showing the past motions of almost 1400 galaxies within 100 million light years of the Milky Way.

Orbits of galaxies in the Local Supercluster

Press Release


November 27, 2017: Newly Discovered Twin Planets Could Solve Puffy Planet Mystery

Since astronomers first measured the size of an extrasolar planet seventeen years ago, they have struggled to answer the question: how did the largest planets get to be so large? Thanks to the recent discovery of twin planets by a University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy team led by graduate student Samuel Grunblatt, we are getting closer to an answer.

Press Release


November 20, 2017: Earth's First Known Insterstellar Visitor Unmasked

In October, astronomers at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy (IfA) made a stunning discovery with the Pan-STARRS1 telescope - the first interstellar object seen passing through our Solar System. Now, an international team lead by Karen Meech (ifA) has made detailed measurements of the visitor's properties. "This thing is very strange," said Karen Meech.

Press Release


October 26, 2017: Small Asteroid or Comet 'Visits' from the Beyond the Solar System

A small, recently discovered asteroid - or perhaps a comet - appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first "interstellar object" to be observed and confirmed by astronomers. This unusual object - for now designated A/2017 U1 - was discovered Oct. 19 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala during the course of its nightly search for Near-Earth Objects for NASA.

Press Release


October 16, 2017: UH Astronomers Help Reshape Our Understanding of the Universe

UH astronomers and their international collaborators announced the discovery and study of the first binary neutron star merger detected in gravitational waves in articles published today in Science, Nature, and the Astrophysical Journal. The study of this event shows that at least some of the elements heavier than iron were originally created in binary neutron star mergers like this one.

Press Release


August 25, 2017: Astronomers Discover Variability in the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades Cluster

The brightest members of the Pleiades cluster form a spectacular group of naked-eye stars that have played a central role in cultures around the world for millennia. Now, an international team of astronomers, including Daniel Huber from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, used the Kepler Space Telescope to perform the most detailed study to date of their variability - with some interesting new discoveries.

Press Release


August 10, 2017: The Cosmic Velocity Web

The cosmic web - the distribution of matter on the largest scales in the universe - has usually been defined through the distribution of galaxies. Now, a new study by a team of astronomers from France, Israel, and Hawaii demonstrates a novel approach. Instead of using galaxy positions, they mapped the motions of thousands of galaxies. Because galaxies are pulled toward gravitational attractors and move away from empty regions, these motions allowed the team to locate the denser matter in clusters and filaments and the absence of matter in regions called voids.

Press Release


July 5, 2017: Hawaiʻi Astronomer Receives $1 Million Award to Build Sharper Eyes for Maunakea Telescope

The University of Hawaiʻi's 2.2 meter (88-inch) telescope on Maunakea will soon be producing images nearly as sharp as those from the Hubble Space Telescope, thanks to a new instrument using the latest image sharpening technologies. Astronomer Christoph Baranec, at the University of Hawaiʻi's Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to build an autonomous adaptive optics system called Robo-AO-2 for the UH telescope.

Press Release


IfA 50th Anniversary Celebration This Summer

The UH Institute for Astronomy celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a special three-day meeting in Honolulu from June 28-30, 2017. Everyone with a history or relationship with the IfA is invited to attend, including former and present graduate students, postdocs, staff and faculty. See below for two free public events that are also part of the celebration.

Event Information


Join us for two FREE events featuring renowned author Dava Sobel, on June 27 and 28

June 27th, 7:30PM, UH Manoa Orvis Auditorium: Perpetual Motion: Galileo and His Revolutions
Sarah Pillow, soprano & Mary-Anne Ballard, viola da gamba, with guests Daniel Swenberg, lute and theorbo; author Dava Sobel & Marc Wagnon, video artist
A moving and compelling account of a remarkable moment in the history of science, human thought and music, Perpetual Motion ties together the groundbreaking repertoire of Galileo's day, narration by acclaimed best-selling science writer Dava Sobel, and images of Earth and the cosmos. The UH Bookstore will have copies of Dava's books for sale, and she will be signing them!

Free Tickets (required) via Ticketbud

June 28th, 7:30PM, UH Manoa Orvis Auditorium: Dava Sobel talks on "The Glass Universe"
The acclaimed author of Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (Walker, 1995), Dava Sobel will be speaking about her new book, The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars (Viking, 2016), which tells the story of the women who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s. The UH Bookstore will have copies of Dava's books for sale, and she will be signing them!

Free Tickets (required) via Ticketbud


June 18, 2017: New Branch in Family Tree of Exoplanets Discovered

Since the mid-1990s, when the first planet around another sun-like star was discovered, astronomers have been amassing what is now a large collection of exoplanets - nearly 3,500 have been confirmed so far. In a new study, whose lead author is an IfA graduate student, researchers have classified these planets in much the same way that biologists identify new animal species and have learned that the majority of exoplanets found to date fall into two distinct size groups: rocky Earth-like planets and larger mini-Neptunes. The team used data from NASA's Kepler mission and the W. M. Keck Observatory.

Press Release


June 6, 2017: Shine Bright Like a Diamond: Team Obtains Best-Ever Infrared Maps of Super-Luminous Galaxies

An international team of astronomers, including IfA graduate student Jason Chu and Astronomer David Sanders, has used the Herschel Space Observatory to take far-infrared images of the 200 most infrared-luminous galaxies in the Local Universe.

Press Release


June 5, 2017: Astronomers Prove What Separates True Stars from Wannabes

A team of astronomers, lead by IfA graduate Trent Dupuy and IfA astronomy Michael Liu, have shown what separates real stars from the wannabes. Not in Hollywood, but out in the universe. They found that an object must weigh at least 70 Jupiters in order to start hydrogen fusion. If it weighs less, the star does not ignite and becomes a brown dwarf instead.

Press Release


May 1, 2017: University of Hawaii 88-inch Telescope to Undergo Repair and Maintenance

Starting the week of May 1, the University of Hawaii 88-inch telescope (UH88) will undergo much needed repair and maintenance. The renovation will include fresh paint and repaired siding on the exterior, roof repair and weather sealing of the dome, improved lightning protection, as well as safety upgrades.

Press Release


May 1, 2017: IfA Faculty and Graduate Student Receive UH Research Awards

A good showing today for the IfA at the UH Awards Ceremony. Faculty members Christoph Baranec and Jeff Kuhn received the Board of Regents' Medal for Excellence in Research awards for excellence in research, while graduate student Will Best received the award for Student Excellence in Research (Doctoral Level).

More Information


IfA Manoa Open House April 23rd

Join us at our Manoa Headquarters on April 23rd, from 11am-4pm, for a day of family-friendly activities and talks!

Digitalis planetarium - Talks - LEGO activities - Comet making - VR Sandbox - Wind tunnel - Bottle rockets - Model solar system - Sundials - Ask an Astronomer - Infrared camera - Solar telescopes - Rubens tube - Fresnel lens - 3D gallery - Astrophotography - and more!
Free admission and free parking

More Information


April 11, 2017: Hawaii-built Infrared Instrument for World's Largest Solar Telescope Catches its First Rays

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), currently under construction on Haleakala, Maui, is expected to start observing the Sun in 2020. When it does, it will rely on two complex infrared instruments being built by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA). Their goal is to measure the Sun's weak magnetic field. The first of these to be completed is called the Cryogenic Near-Infrared Spectropolarimeter (CryoNIRSP). In a major milestone, it took its first look at the Sun from the laboratories at the IfA's Advanced Technology Research Center on Maui.

Press Release


March 16, 2017: In Memoriam: Tobias Owen

The IfA mourns the loss of our long-time faculty member and professor emeritus Toby Owen. Tobias (Toby) C. Owen, passed away on March 4, 2017, in Sacramento, California, where he had been living after retiring from the IfA in 2012.

Obituary, by Alan Tokunaga


January 30, 2017: Newly Discovered Intergalactic Void Repels Milky Way

In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers, including Brent Tully from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, reports the discovery of a previously unknown, nearly empty region in our extragalactic neighborhood. Largely devoid of galaxies, this void exerts a repelling force, pushing our Local Group of galaxies through space.

Press Release


January 13, 2017: IfA Astronomer Receives Royal Astronomical Society's Highest Award

IfA Astronomer Nick Kaiser has been awarded the Gold Medal in Astronomy by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). The Medal's past recipients include Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Arthur Eddington and Stephen Hawking. Dr. Kaiser is receiving the award for his extensive theoretical and observational work on cosmology, including how matter - both dark and visible - is distributed on the largest scales.

Press Release


December 19, 2016: Pan-STARRS Releases Largest Digital Sky Survey to the World

The Pan-STARRS project at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy is publicly releasing the world's largest digital sky survey today, via the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Press Release


December 15, 2016: Ice is Everywhere on the Dwarf Planet Ceres

At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts -- not ice. But newly published studies from Dawn scientists, including University of Hawaii astronomer Norbert Schörghofer, show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. These findings, which verify predictions made by scientists formerly at UH, are being presented at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, California.

Press Release


December 12, 2016: Giving the Sun a Brake

Astronomers from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), Brazil, and Stanford University may have solved a long-standing solar mystery. Two decades ago, scientists discovered that the outer five percent of the Sun spins more slowly than the rest of its interior. Now, in a new study to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters, IfA Maui scientists Ian Cunnyngham, Jeff Kuhn, and Isabelle Scholl, together with Marcelo Emilio (Brazil) and Rock Bush (Stanford), describe the physical mechanism responsible for slowing the Sun's outer layers.

Press Release


Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 - Free Frontiers of Astronomy Talk

"A Magnificent Celestial Show in 2017: The August 21 Total Solar Eclipse in North America " with IfA astronomer Shadia Habbal, 7:30 p.m., UH Mānoa Art Building Auditorium (room 132). Free Admission (Campus Parking $6). Poster

One of nature's most spectacular celestial sights is the magnificent solar corona, visible only during a total solar eclipse. On August 21, 2017, the moon's shadow will sweep across the entire United States from Oregon to South Carolina over a span of approximately 90 minutes. Everyone in the 48 contiguous states and Alaska will witness at least a partial solar eclipse. Those directly under the moon's 60 mile-wide shadow will have 2 minutes of totality - one of life's most awesome experiences. Learn why people become eclipse chasers, traveling the world to enjoy their beauty - and do some science.

Join us Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 for the IfA Maui Open House

The annual IfA Maui Open House will be held Friday, Oct. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Maikalani building in Pukalani, Maui. Free Admission. Flier

September 15, 2016: Hubble Takes Close-up Look at Disintegrating Comet

Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami survived for 4.5 billion years in the frigid Kuiper Belt, a vast reservoir of icy bodies on the outskirts of our solar system. But within the last few million years, the unlucky comet was gravitationally kicked to the inner solar system by the outer planets - and this new home, closer to the sun, has doomed the comet. The Hubble Space Telescope caught the latest cloud of debris ejected by Comet 332P. The images, taken over three days in January 2016, represent one of the sharpest, most detailed observations of a comet breaking apart. The doomed comet may disintegrate in only 150 years.

Press Release


August 3, 2016: Planets With the Highest Likelihood of Harboring Life Identified

A team of astronomers known as the Kepler Habitable Zone Working Group, including University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy astronomer Nader Haghighipour, has identified which of the more than 4,000 exoplanets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission are most likely to be similar to our rocky home.

Press Release


July 27, 2016: Jupiter's Great Red Spot Heats Planet's Upper Atmosphere

Researchers from Boston University's (BU) Center for Space Physics, using data from the Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunakea, Hawaii, report today in Nature that Jupiter's Great Red Spot may provide the mysterious source of energy required to heat the planet's upper atmosphere to the unusually high temperatures observed.

Press Release


July 18, 2016: Hawaii Astronomers and Telescopes Haul in One Hundred New Planets

An international team of astronomers has discovered more than 100 new extrasolar planets using data from the Kepler Space Telescope. The planets were confirmed and characterized by a suite of ground-based telescopes, including four telescopes on Maunakea. Six astronomers from the University of Hawaii (UH) contributed to the international team of 44 scientists from seven countries.

Press Release


July 13, 2016: Stellar Outburst Brings Water Snowline into View

A violent outburst by the young star V883 Orionis has given astronomers their first view of a water "snowline" in a protoplanetary disk - the transition point around the star where the temperature and pressure are low enough for water ice to form. The team making this discovery was led by Lucas Cieza, a former Sagan Fellow at IfA, and includes IfA astronomer Jonatham Williams.

NRAO Press Release


July 8, 2016: UH-led Team Uses Dawn Mission To Identify Icy Craters on Ceres

Might the dwarf planet Ceres have permanent ice deposits? Using NASA's Dawn mission, a team led by Norbert Schorghofer, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, has identified permanently shadowed regions on the dwarf planet Ceres. Most of these areas likely have been cold enough to trap water ice for a billion years, suggesting that ice deposits could exist there now.

Press Release


June 16, 2016: Newly discovered asteroid is Earth's companion

Astronomers at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's Institute for Astronomy discovered a small asteroid that has been in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. The asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, was detected in April by the Pan-STARRS telescope on Haleakala, and subsequent research into Pan-STARRS archives revealed faint images of it as far back as 2011.

Press Release


June 13, 2016: Largest, Widest Orbit "Tatooine" Bolsters Planet Formation Theories

A team of astronomers, including University of Hawaii astronomer Nader Haghighipour, will announce on June 13 the discovery of an unusual new transiting circumbinary planet (orbiting two suns). This planet, detected using the Kepler spacecraft, is unusual because it is both the largest such planet found to date, and has the widest orbit.

Press Release


May 25, 2016: Are Black Holes the Dark Matter?

A recent publication suggests that black holes, like the ones discovered by LIGO, are the mysterious dark matter. Have these left their imprint on the diffuse X-ray and inrared background radiation of the Universe? A team lead by UH researchers aims to find out.

UH News Article


Back from the Deep Freeze: A Piece of the Early Solar System Returns

Astronomers have found a unique object that appears to be made of inner Solar System material from the time of Earth's formation, which has been preserved in the Oort Cloud for billions of years. Originally identified by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS1 telescope, C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS) is a weakly active comet a little over twice as far from the Sun as the Earth. Its current long orbital period (around 860 years) suggests that its source is in the Oort Cloud, and it was nudged comparatively recently into an orbit that brings it closer to the Sun.

Press Release


IfA Manoa Open House April 17th

Join us at our Manoa Headquarters on April 17th, 11am-4p, from for a day of family-friendly activities and talks!

Starlab planetarium - Talks - LEGO activities - Comet making - Cratering - Wind tunnel - Bottle rockets - Model solar system - Sundials - Ask an Astronomer - Infrared camera - Solar telescopes - Rubens tube - Daytime Venus viewing - 3D gallery - Astrophotography - and more!
Free admission and free parking

More Information


In memoriam: Gerry Luppino

We grieve the untimely death of former IfA astronomer Gerard Anthony "Gerry" Luppino. A memorial service will be held on April 2. Read Dr. Hasinger's tribute to Gerry.



Mystery of Disappearing Asteroids Solved

Ever since it was realized that asteroid and comet impacts are a real and present danger to the survival of life on Earth, it was thought that most of those objects end their existence in a dramatic final plunge into the Sun. A new study published on Thursday in the journal Nature finds instead that most of those objects are destroyed in a drawn out, long hot fizzle, much farther from the Sun than previously thought. This surprising new discovery explains several puzzling observations that have been reported in recent years.

Press Release


Pan-STARRS Chases Source of LIGO Gravity Wave Event

The email came in the night on Sept 15.  A significant event had happened at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, during their engineering run. A ripple in spacetime had occurred somewhere in the universe. But where? LIGO had not yet started their formal observing run, and with only two Gravity Wave detectors, they could not pinpoint where in the sky, amongst billions and billions of galaxies, the source of this disturbance had occurred.

If "sparks" fly when black holes merge then a new point of light will be seen in the sky. Pan-STARRS, with its powerful surveying capability, can rapidly map the region of the sky identified by LIGO, compare it to the previous map, and find anything that has changed.

Press Release


UH Researchers Shed New Light on the Origins of Earth’s Water

Water covers more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface, but its exact origins are still something of a mystery. Scientists have long been uncertain whether water was present at the formation of the planet, or if it arrived later, perhaps carried by comets and meteorites. Now researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, using advanced ion-microprobe instrumentation, have found evidence that Earth’s water was a part of our planet from the beginning.

Press Release


Main-Belt Asteroid Shows Evidence of March Collision

The main-belt asteroid (493) Griseldis was probably hit by another object last March. The results were reported on November 12 at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society near Washington, DC.

Press Release


Maunakea Observatories and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center to give free observatory tours to Hawai‘i residents

The Kama‘āina Observatory Experience, presented by Maunakea Observatories and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, is a free monthly community event that seeks to inspire a passion for astronomy and an appreciation for the cultural and environmental future of Maunakea among Hawai‘i residents. It will launch in early 2016. Participation is free and open to all Hawai‘i residents. Tours will be open once a month to individuals 16 and older with a valid Hawai‘i ID. Registration is required and will be available via this website on a first come, first served basis.




See more Press Releases and Front-Page Stories