Astronomy Students Students Awarded Coveted Telescope Time

February 19, 2018, 7:42 AM HST
* Updated February 19, 7:46 AM
Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio...

Mary Beth Laychack, outreach manager, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope; Elijah Kogler, student, Kapolei High School. Courtesy photo.

Maunakea Observatories staff gathered with students, teachers and families across the state last week to continue to award the 2017-18 school year winners of the Maunakea Scholars program.

Educators, observatory staff and community leaders congratulated students at both King Kekaulike High School and Kapolei High School on their tremendous efforts and briefly spoke on each of the winning proposals.

The 2017-18 program represents the first time students from Maui have participated in the Maunakea Scholars program.

Students in the Maunakea Scholars program spend months working alongside mentors from the University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy, analyzing data and preparing professional-style research proposals in areas of their own personal interest. The student proposals which are deemed most creative, scientifically promising and technically viable are awarded telescope time to facilitate advanced research.

“We are delighted to see the Maunakea Scholars program continue to grow with our first student participants from Maui and ongoing engagement on O‘ahu,” said Mary Beth Laychak, outreach manager for Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. “The imaginative and passionate student proposals from the 2017-18 program participants piqued our interest and demonstrated what we already know to be true—astronomy has a special place in Hawai‘i.”


Those who are awarded telescope time are paired with a mentor, as well as telescope staff, to individually assist and guide them through their research. Past students have used their telescope time to explore black holes, exoplanets, comets, search for signs of life, and much more.


On Feb. 14, 2017-18 winning proposals from King Kekaulike High School were announced.

  • Janine Harris – Cepheid Magnitude Periods
  • Ryan Siarot and Thorn Refugio – Observing Asteroid Colors to Determine Composition
  • Quinton Uradomo – Dark Matter
  • Kayla Wohlers and Caroline Stevenson – Deep Into The Storm
  • Quentin Beamer – White Dwarf Formation Temperatures

On Feb. 16, 2017-18 winning proposals from Kapolei High School were announced.

  • Tavita Vaitului – New Life
  • Elijah Kogler and Noah Kolona – Does the Orbit of Sagittarius A Affect the Surrounding Stars?

King Kekaulike High School students were mentored by JD Armstrong and Kapolei High School students were mentored by Maissa Salama and Travis Berger. The mentors hail from the University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy.


Since its inception in 2015, the Maunakea Scholars program has seen tremendous growth and engagement across the state, doubling each year in size. In the 2017-18 school year, nearly one fourth of public high schools across Hawaii are participating in the program. Maunakea Scholars hopes to offer opportunities to students on all across Hawai‘i in the near future.

Initiated by Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and Gemini Observatory, in partnership with the Maunakea Observatories and the Hawaii State Department of Education, Maunakea Scholars aims to bring Hawai‘i’s aspiring young astronomers into the observatory community with real hands on experience. This is the first program of its kind internationally, leveraging the most powerful collection of telescopes in the world for the direct educational advancement of Hawaii’s high school students.

About the Maunakea Observatories

The Maunakea Observatories are a collaboration of independent institutions with telescopes located on Maunakea on the island of Hawaii. Together, the Observatories make Maunakea the most scientifically productive site for astronomy world-wide. The Maunakea Observatories include: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Gemini International Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (EAO), NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Subaru Telescope, Submillimeter Array, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, University of Hawaii Hilo Educational Telescope, University of Hawaii 2.2 Meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array, W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II).

About the Hawai‘i State Department of Education

The Hawaii State Department of Education is the ninth-largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 256 schools and 34 charter schools, and serves 179,902 students. King Kamehameha III established Hawai‘i’s public school system in 1840. To learn more, visit

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Mahalo for Subscribing


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments