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Maunakea Skies: Long-Wavelength Eyes on the Cosmos

Posted November 8, 2016, 12:00 PM HST
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James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Image credit: William Montgomerie             

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Image credit: William Montgomerie

Many remarkable astronomical discoveries have resulted from scientific observations across the realms of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum that lie beyond the domain of human vision.

Learn more about this fascinating technology at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. with Dr. Mark Rawlings, support scientist at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (East Asian Observatory).

The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses all different forms of light and energy, ranging from low-energy radio waves through visible light that humans can see, to high-energy Gamma rays.

We take advantage of some of the more familiar parts of the EM spectrum in our day-to-day lives, when we use a microwave to warm up food, or tune into a local radio station.

Other portions of the EM spectrum, such as infrared, radio and submillimeter wavelengths, allow astronomers to make fascinating discoveries about our universe.

Infrared observations, for example, pierce the cloudy veils of stellar nurseries and offer a view of stars in the process of being born, while radio and submillimeter telescopes allow us to image some of the coldest places in the universe, and glimpse the tiniest molecules and even the afterglow of the Big Bang itself.

During his talk, Rawlings will focus on telescopes that observe at the longer wavelengths—the radio, submillimeter and infrared ranges—and discuss their complementary roles in observing the “interstellar medium”—the material between stars.

Dr. Mark Rawlings, support scientist at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (East Asian Observatory). Courtesy photo.

Dr. Mark Rawlings, support scientist at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (East Asian Observatory). Courtesy photo.

Despite being invisible to the human eye, the humble mixture of dust and gas that make up the interstellar medium is a fundamental component of the universe and is actually central to the formation of galaxies, stars and planets.

Come learn about astronomers’ unexpected adventures and ongoing struggles to capture the faintest of signals from distant clouds in deep space.

Rawlings received his Ph.D. from the University of Central Lancashire (UK), specializing in optical and infrared studies of dust and gas in high extinction galactic sightlines, focusing on the role of organic material in diffuse interstellar space.

For the past year, he has worked as a support scientist at the East Asian Observatory. His primary scientific interests include interstellar dust and gas, star formation and evolved stars.

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His primary scientific interests include interstellar dust and gas, star formation and evolved stars.

Hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy, Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, with the audience able to view prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year. Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

General admission tickets are $10; $8 for members (member-level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at (808) 932-8901.

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a world-class center for informal science education located on the University of Hawai‘i campus. Its centerpiece is a 12,000-square-foot. exhibit hall, showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration guided by the light of the stars.

The visitor experience is amplified with programming using ‘Imiloa’s 3D full dome planetarium and nine acres of native landscape gardens. The center welcomes approximately 100,000 visitors each year, including 10,000-plus schoolchildren on guided field trips and other educational programs.

‘Imiloa is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off of Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park.

For more information, visit www.ImiloaHawaii.org or call (808) 932-8901.

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