Institute for Astronomy
Sept. 2, 2020: UH Mānoa researchers predict location of novel candidate for mysterious dark energy
Astronomers have known for two decades that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, but the physics of this expansion remains a mystery. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have made a novel prediction – the dark energy responsible for this accelerating growth comes from a vast sea of compact objects spread throughout the voids between galaxies. This conclusion is part of a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal.
August 28, 2020: Maui teens track space satellite plummeting to Earth
Astronomers have known for two decades that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, but the physics of this expansion remains a mystery. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have made a novel prediction—the dark energy responsible for this accelerating growth comes from a vast sea of compact objects spread throughout the voids between galaxies. This conclusion is part of a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal.Two Maui middle schoolers spotted a 250-pound space satellite projected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on Saturday, August 29. Scientists expect the inoperative satellite, OGO-1, to break up over the South Pacific, away from inhabited areas at around 10:45 a.m. HST.
August 11, 2020: UH astronomers cast world-wide ‘net’ of telescopes to catch mysterious fading stars
University of Hawaiʻi scientists are leading one of the newly announced Key Projects on a worldwide network of telescopes called the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) global telescope network. Using thousands of hours of observing time, they will investigate the neighborhoods of young stars where planets are thought to be forming.
August 4, 2020: Hawaiʻi students track asteroid as it passes near Earth
On July 20, our Pan-STARRS1 telescope discovered an asteroid 65 feet in diameter that appeared likely to pass close to Earth. Some of the first follow-up images of the approaching asteroid were taken by Hawaiʻi high school students participating in the IfA’s HI STAR program, using telescopes from the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) global telescope network.
July 24, 2020: Asteroid discovered by UH telescope will make close pass Monday
An asteroid discovered on July 20 by the University of Hawaiʻi’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope atop Haleakalā will make a close pass of Earth on Monday, July 27. At its closest point, the asteroid will be only about 1.7 times the distance of the Moon.
July 15, 2020: Major research leap for UH88 telescope with robotic upgrade
A team of astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi was awarded a $1 million grant to upgrade the UH 2.2-meter telescope on Maunakea, giving the mountain’s first large telescope a leg up on its larger, newer neighbors, with more nimble, streamlined operations.
July 10, 2020: Astronomers map massive structure beyond Laniakea Supercluster
For the past decade, an international team of astronomers, led in part by Brent Tully at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, has been mapping the distribution of galaxies around the Milky Way. They have discovered an immense structure beyond Laniakea, an immense supercluster of galaxies, including our own. Astronomers have dubbed the newly identified structure the South Pole Wall.
June 30, 2020: United Nations News highlights our ATLAS project for Asteroid Day
June 30th is Asteroid Day, marking the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska impact which leveled trees and destroyed forests across 770 square miles of Siberia. IfA’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is featured in today’s United Nations News, as “Earth’s last Defence” against asteroids.
June 26, 2020: Maunakea’s first large telescope celebrates 50 years of science
The University of Hawaiʻi’s 88-inch telescope is celebrating its Golden Anniversary on June 26th. Often called the UH88, the telescope was dedicated on this date in 1970, beginning decades of incredible scientific output, and ushering in an era of unparalleled astronomy from Maunakea. Now, 50 years later, the observatory continues to modernize and pave the way for others.
June 24, 2020: Infant planet discovered by UH astronomers, Maunakea telescope
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa astronomers are part of an international team that recently discovered an infant planet around a nearby young star. The discovery was reported today in the international journal Nature. The planet is about the size of Neptune, but, unlike Neptune, it is much closer to its star, taking only eight and a half days to complete one orbit. It is named “AU Mic b” after its host star, AU Microscopii.
June 4, 2020: UH astronomers unveil the magnetic field of the solar corona
While the world has been dealing with the corona-virus pandemic, researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) have been hard at work studying the solar corona, the outermost atmosphere of the Sun which expands into interplanetary space. A new study by IfA graduate student Benjamin Boe used total solar eclipse observations to measure the shape of the coronal magnetic field with higher spatial resolution and over a larger area than ever before.
May 26, 2020: Astronomers recategorize asteroid-like comet detected by UH ATLAS telescope
Recently discovered object 2019 LD2, originally believed to be the first cometary “Jupiter Trojan” asteroid by astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy turns out to be an interloper comet masquerading as a member of the Trojan population.
May 20, 2020: UH ATLAS telescope discovers first-of-its-kind asteroid
Asteroids and comets are often thought of as distinct types of small bodies, but astronomers have discovered an increasing number of “crossovers.” These objects initially appear to be asteroids, and later develop activity, such as tails, that are typical of comets. The University of Hawaiʻi’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is now behind the discovery of the first known Jupiter Trojan asteroid to have sprouted a comet-like tail.
May 19, 2020: UH REU student helps reveal how galaxies and black holes grow together
Over the past two decades, astronomers have concluded that most, if not all, galaxies host massive black holes at their centers – and the masses of a black hole and its host galaxy are correlated. But how are the two connected? Now, a student participating in the IfA Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, may have revealed part of the answer.
May 19, 2020: UH astronomers help confirm existence of 2 newborn planets
New evidence shows the first-ever pictures capturing the birth of a pair of planets orbiting the star PDS 70 are in fact authentic. Astronomers from the IfA were part of a Caltech-led team that used a new infrared pyramid wavefront sensor for adaptive optics (AO) correction at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea. The team applied a new method of taking family photos of the baby planets (“protoplanets”) and confirmed their existence.
May 15, 2020: UH astronomy grad student wins science writing award
Ellis Avallone, a second-year graduate student at the IfA has received the 2020 American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Physics Division Popular Writing Award. She explained the role of the Sun’s rotation rate during the formation of the solar system.
May 13, 2020: UH astronomers decipher rhythm among young stars
By “listening” to the beating hearts of stars, an international team of astronomers including researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa detected a rhythm of life for a class of stellar objects that puzzled scientists until now.
May 12, 2020: Jupiter’s `jack-o-lantern’ glow captured with UH-built instrument
A team of researchers recently released some of the sharpest images of Jupiter ever taken from the ground. Images captured with the Gemini North telescope on Maunakea help reveal how the planet’s massive storms form and confirm dark spots in its famous Great Red Spot are gaps not a variation in cloud color. Some of the key observations in the study were obtained with the Near Infrared Imager (NIRI), an instrument built by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy.
May 1, 2020: IfA Staff and Machine Shop Assist with Kahanu Ventilator Production
Working on their own time, IfA’s Lou Robertson, Bill Unruh, and Jessica Young utilized our machine shop to produce precision parts for Hawaiʻi’s home-grown Kahanu ventilator production. They also 3-D printed facemasks for donation to medical facilities.
April 29, 2020: Newly Discovered Exoplanet Dethrones Former King Of Kepler-88 Planetary System
A team of astronomers led by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy has discovered a planet three times the mass of Jupiter in a distant planetary system, as they seek to find out if other planetary systems have gravitational gods like Jupiter.
March 20, 2020: Aloha Don Hall
We are extremely sad to report that Donald N.B. Hall, Astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA), passed away on the morning of March 18th, 2020, after suffering a heart attack. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, students, and colleagues. Further information will be provided when it becomes available.
Annual Open House POSTPONED!
Due to COVID-19, UH is cancelling all events with over 100 attendees. Our annual Open House will be postponed to the fall semester. We will miss you all, and please be safe!<!–
At IfA Mānoa, 2680 Woodlawn Dr. – Free Admission, Free Parking
Jan. 29, 2020: Never-before-seen images of Sun released from world’s largest solar telescope
Researchers and the general public are getting a glimpse of the most detailed view ever of the Sun, thanks to the National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) on Haleakalā, Maui. The imagery, released January 29, 2020, shows cell-like structures the size of Texas roiling on the Sun’s surface and the tiny footprints of magnetism that reach into space.
Jan. 23, 2020: IfA Astronomer Shadia Habbal star of new children’s book
University of Hawaiʻi astronomer Shadia Rifai Habbal travels the globe to capture total solar eclipses — when the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a phenomenon that has captivated humans for centuries. Now the award-winning astronomy professor’s quest to hunt down solar eclipses is at the center of childrenss book “Eclipse Chaser: Science in the Moon’s Shadow,” by local author Ilima Loomis.
Jan. 4, 2020: American Astronomical Society 235th Meeting in Honolulu
The 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society is at the Hawaii Convention Center Jan. 4th-8th. Over 3400 astronomers are attending, making it the largest AAS meeting ever. Public events include:
Sunday, January 5th, 7-9PM: Stargazing at Ala Moana Beach Park (Map)
Monday, January 6th, 7-8:30PM: Free Public Talk at Hawaii Convention Center, Physics of Pō (details)
Dec. 16, 2019: Capturing Shooting Stars Over Hawaiʻi
Astronomers now have a new pair of eyes to detect meteors over Hawaiʻi using a state-of-the-art monitoring system installed on the rooftops of existing building on Maunakea and Haleakalā. The high-speed video devices are now fully operational and part of an expanding network of identical cameras in the Automated Meteor Observation System (AMOS).
Nov. 5, 2019: Astronomy graduate student awarded three-year NASA fellowship
A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) graduate student received a three-year NASA fellowship that sponsors rising STEM scientists who will support future NASA discoveries. She is the first UH student to receive this award, worth $55,000 a year.
Sept. 26, 2019: Black hole shreds star; UH astronomer on discovery team
For the first time, astronomers have witnessed the immediate aftermath of a star being violently ripped apart by a supermassive black hole. The observations were published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal. IfA’s Benjamin Shappee is part of the team of astronomers led by Carnegie Observatories’ Thomas Holoien. Both are founding members of the Ohio State University-based All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN)
Sept. 10, 2019: Are black holes made of dark energy?
Two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers have identified and corrected a subtle error that was made when applying Einstein’s equations to model the growth of the universe. The results suggest that compact objects like black holes could be made of dark energy.
August 12, 2019: Critical observation made on Maunakea during first night of return to operations
The existing astronomical observatories on Maunakea returned to operations this weekend, and it didn’t take long for a significant result to be achieved, not only for science, but for assuring the safety of the Earth. Observations of the near-Earth asteroid 2006 QV89 made on August 11 with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) have ruled out any potential future impact threat to the Earth by this asteroid for the next century.
August 8, 2019: Astronomers to deploy breakthrough technology at UH telescope
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.1 million grant to a University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) scientist to install a high-tech shape-shifting secondary mirror on the UH 2.2-meter telescope on Maunakea.
July 26, 2019: NASA awards grants to 3 UH grad students
NASA awarded three graduate students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) grants, providing $45,000 annually for up to three years for their contributions toward reaching science, technology and exploration goals. One of the awardees is our own Travis Berger. The others are atmospheric science student Madeline McKenna and physics student Cory Gerrity. UHM and UChicago were the only universities to have three awardees, the most of any schools this year.
July 22, 2019: Astronomers map vast void in our cosmic neighborhood
An astronomer from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and an international team published a new study that reveals more of the vast cosmic structure surrounding our Milky Way galaxy.
July 12, 2019: NASA contract awarded to UH Institute for Astronomy for observatory management
NASA has awarded a contract to the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy to continue to manage and operate the agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunakea. The potential value of the contract is approximately $30 million. About 30 IfA researchers and staff based in Hilo and Honolulu are involved in supporting the IRTF, which started operations 40 years ago this month.
July 1, 2019: ʻOumuamua is Not an Alien Spacecraft
An international team of asteroid and comet experts, including two from the University of Hawaiʻi, agrees on a natural origin for our first interstellar visitor.
June 25, 2019: Breakthrough: UH team successfully locates incoming asteroid
For the first time, astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi have demonstrated that their ATLAS and Pan-STARRS survey telescopes can provide sufficient warning to move people away from the impact site of an incoming asteroid. They detected a small asteroid prior to its entering the Earth’s atmosphere near Puerto Rico on the morning of June 22, 2019.
June 20, 2019: TMT receives notice to proceed from the state
Gov. David Ige announced that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island.
April 25, 2019: UH astronomer earns national award for solar research
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded an assistant astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy one of its most prestigious awards for junior faculty. Xudong Sun received a $620,590 grant for a five-year term from the NSF Faculty Early Career Development program. The award is bestowed on teacher-scholars pursuing cutting-edge research while simultaneously advancing excellence in education.
FREE Public talk May 2, 2019, 7:30pm: Unveiling the Dark Side of the Universe
with astrophysicist and author Priya Natarajan, Yale University
At Orvis Auditorium, UH Mānoa
Centered on celestial cartography, Dr. Natarajan will discuss how mapping the universe has generated the radical scientific ideas that have shaped our current understanding of cosmology – maps literally track our ever-evolving cosmic view, tracing our understanding of the universe, its contents and its evolution. She will discuss how the dark side of the universe has been revealed and how dark matter, dark energy and black holes have shaped the past, present and future of our universe.
April 16, 2019: Scientists Fill Out A Circumbinary Planetary System
A team of astronomers, including Nader Haghighipour from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, have discovered a third planet in the circumbinary planetary system Kepler-47. This discovery cements the system’s title as the most interesting of the binary-star worlds, and marks the first complete and dynamically full planetary system around a binary star.
Join us for our Annual Open House on April 7th!
At IfA Mānoa, 2680 Woodlawn Dr. – Free Admission, Free Parking
March 28, 2019: Hawaiʻi Team Catches Asteroid As It Self-Destructs
Astronomers once thought asteroids were boring, wayward space rocks that simply orbit around the Sun. New observations are turning these ideas on their heads, showing that asteroids are anything but dull. Asteroid Gault, discovered in 1998, has begun to slowly disintegrate. The crumbling was first detected on Jan. 5, 2019 by the IfA’s ATLAS telescopes on Maunaloa and Haleakalā. Spectacular images of asteroid 6478 Gault from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope show two narrow, comet-like tails of debris streaming from the diminutive 2.5-mile-wide asteroid.<!–
March 5, 2019: Kepler Space Telescope’s First Exoplanet Candidate Confirmed, Ten Years After Launch
The Kepler Space Telescope was launched ten years ago ans has discovered thousands of exoplanets. Today, an international team of astronomers, led by University of Hawaiʻi graduate student Ashley Chontos, announced the confirmation of the very first exoplanet candidate identified by that mission.
February 19, 2019: University of Hawaiʻi Astronomer Awarded Prestigious Sloan Foundation Fellowship
Daniel Huber, an Assistant Astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been selected for a prestigious 2019 Sloan Research Fellowship, one of 126 recipients across the U.S. and Canada.
January 28, 2019: World’s largest digital sky survey issues biggest astronomical data release ever
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA), is releasing the second edition of data from Pan-STARRS — the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System — the world’s largest digital sky survey.
January 8, 2019: University of Hawaiʻi Astronomer Receives American Astronomical Society’s Highest Award
Ann Merchant Boesgaard, Professor of Astronomy, Emerita at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), has been awarded the 2019 Henry Norris Russell Lectureship by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The Russell Prize is the AAS’ highest award, and is bestowed annually on the basis of a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research.
December 17, 2018: Discovered: Most Distant Solar System Object Ever Observed
A team of astronomers has discovered the most distant body ever observed in our solar system. It is the first known solar system object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.
The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie Observaties’ Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaiiʻs David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.
November 30, 2018: Newly discovered supernova may rewrite exploding star origin theories
A supernova discovered by an international group of astronomers has provided an unprecedented look at the first moments of a violent stellar explosion. The team, led in part by IfA Astronomer Ben Shappee, found a mysterious signature in the light from the explosion’s first hour. Follow-up obervations suggest that the traditional original theory for these tupes of supernovae is wrong.
November 28, 2018: Waipahu HS student, Maunakea scholar studies Star Wars planet
The Star Wars universe turned from science fiction to science fact for a Waipahu High School student, who observed a real-life “Tatooine” using one of the largest, most scientifically-impactful observatories in the world.
November 27, 2018: Maunakea Visitor Information Station begins improvements; stargazing and operating hours impacted
The Maunakea Visitor Information Station (VIS) on Hawaiʻi Island will adjust its closing time from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Sunday, December 9, for an infrastructure project that will improve visitor safety and to better protect natural, historic and cultural resources. Preparations will begin in December with construction slated to start in January 2019. The project is expected to take about six months.
November 7, 2018: Best View Yet of Supermassive Black Holes in Merging Galaxies
A team of astronomers, including IfA’s David Sanders and former IfA postdoc Mike Koss, have used the W. M. Keck Observatory on Muanakea and the Hubble Space Telescope to complete the most detailed census of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies. The team’s findings support the theory that galaxy mergers explain how some supermassive black holes become so monstrously large.
October 2, 2018: While Seeking Planet X, Astronomers Find a Distant Solar System Object
Astronomers have discovered a new object at the edge of our Solar System. The new extremely distant object far beyond Pluto has an orbit that supports the presence of a larger Planet X. The newly found object, called 2015 TG387, was announced by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center on Monday, October 1, 2018.
Sept. 27, 2018: Fundraising in honor of late Native Hawaiian astronomer passes halfway mark
The University of Hawaiʻi is delighted to announce that the Paul H.I. Coleman Scholarship fund is now more than halfway to the goal of raising a $100,000 endowment to support local high school graduates who choose to study astronomy at UH.
August 15, 2018: ATLAS Asteroid Detection System Will Expand to Southern Hemishphere
The IfA’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), a NASA-funded telescope network devoted to detecting space rocks that could crash into Earth, will expand into the Southern Hemisphere, which currently lacks a large-scale asteroid-surveillance effort. The additional observatories will not only spot asteroids that could harm people, but also detect comets, supernovae and other benign celestial objects.
August 14, 2018: IfA Graduate BJ Fulton Receives Prestigious Trumpler Award
Dr. Benjamin J. (BJ) Fulton, who received his doctorate from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA) in 2017, has been awarded the Robert J. Trumpler Award, given by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to recognize a recent PhD thesis considered unusually important to astronomy. He is the third IfA gradute to receive the award in the past five years.
July 16, 2018: Astronomers Find a Famous Exoplanet’s Doppelgänger
When it comes to extrasolar planets, appearances can be deceiving. Astronomers from Hawaiʻ and elsewhere have imaged a new planet, and it appears nearly identical to one of the best studied gas-giant planets. But this doppelgänger differs in one very important way: its origin.
July 13, 2018: ATLAS telescope pinpoints meteorite impact prediction
A multinational team of scientists has just found the first fragments of the small asteroid 2018 LA, which exploded harmlessly high above Africa on June 2. The University of Hawaiʻi’s Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescope took the final images of 2018 LA before it entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded.
July 12, 2018: Hawaiʻi telescopes help unravel long-standing cosmic mystery
Astronomers and physicists around the world, including here in Hawaiʻi, have begun to unravel a long-standing cosmic mystery. Using a vast array of telescopes in space and on Earth, they have identified a source of cosmic rays-highly energetic particles that continuously rain down on Earth from space. In a paper published this week in the journal Science, scientists have, for the first time, provided evidence for a known blazar, designated TXS 0506+056, as a source of high-energy neutrinos.<!–
June 27, 2018: Is the Interstellar Asteroid Really a Comet?
The interstellar object ʻOumuamua was discovered back on October 19, 2017, but the puzzle of its true nature has taken months to unravel, and may never be fully solved. Today, an international team led by IfA graduate Marco Micheli and IfA Astronomer Karen Meech reports that it might be a comet, and not an asteroid as initially thought.
June 20, 2018: UH astronomy graduate students earn worldwide recognition
Four current and former doctoral students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) have been recognized for outstanding research.
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.
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.
Join Us April 22nd at Our Annual Open House!
Free activities, displays, talks, and demonstrations for all ages! Plenty of free parking too! Sunday, April 22nd, 11AM-4PM, at our Manoa headquarters.
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<!–
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.
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.