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UH Provides Earthquake-Damaged Japanese Observatory with Dome on Haleakalā

T60 telescope  

The T60 telescope looks out onto the Haleakalā sky after being relocated from its damaged building near Sendai, Japan. Photo by Isabelle Scholl.

A Japanese planetary research observatory was blessed and dedicated September 8 at Haleakalā Observatories in the presence of about 25 scientists and administrators from the United States and Japan.

The new observatory came about because Tohoku University’s Planetary Science Program requested assistance from the UH Institute for Astronomy after the 2011 earthquake damaged its observatory building near Sendai, Japan.

The Institute for Astronomy was able to facilitate the reuse of an existing facility at the Haleakalā Observatories to accept the Tohoku 60-centimeter (24-inch) telescope known as “T60.” The observatory now houses the Japanese instruments and will provide spectacular data on Mars and planetary atmospheres from Haleakalā, which is one of the best observing sites in the world.

G√ľnther Hasinger, director of the IfA, said, “We are excited to enhance an already strong collaboration with the Japanese astronomy community by helping to get their 60-centimeter planetary telescope back on the sky.”

Jeff Kuhn, an IfA Maui scientist, added, “Although this isn’t the largest telescope here, it brings unique instrumental capabilities to Hawai‘i.”

Takahiro Obara, director of the Tohoku Planetary Science Program, also attended the dedication. He noted, “We are extremely pleased to take this next step with our partners at the University of Hawai‘i. We expect that the many Japanese students and scientists that use this instrument will build an even stronger collaboration between the two institutions.”