Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Saturday, July 6, 2024
Potential $85M from NASA for UH Hilo management of Maunakea telescope
By News Release @ 2:36 PM :: 540 Views :: Higher Education

Potential $85M from NASA for UH Hilo management of Maunakea telescope

UH News, July 5, 2024

The University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) has been selected by NASA to continue to operate the agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunakea, a primary asset in NASA’s planetary defense system. NASA made the announcement in a June 30 news release.

Among its many science programs, IRTF is used to identify asteroids and comets that may pose a threat to Earth. The NASA contract with UH has a maximum potential value of approximately $85.5 million and could extend through December 2033, according to the space agency. UH will be responsible for observatory maintenance, operations, and more.

UH will also develop and implement an operations strategy so that the scientific community can use the facility through peer-reviewed competition to assist NASA in achieving its scientific discovery, mission support and planetary defense goals.

“The award of a new contract follows a very successful independent review of IRTF operations and scientific productivity last year. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to work with NASA and manage this important facility,” said IRTF Director John Rayner. “We are excited to maximize IRTF as a scientific research facility to advance our understanding of the universe while also protecting our planet.”

IRTF is a 3.0-meter telescope optimized for infrared observations that was originally built to support NASA’s Voyager missions. It started operations in 1979 and has been operated by UH ever since. About 30 IfA researchers and staff based in Hilo and Honolulu support the facility.

“I think this operating agreement speaks volumes about our IfA team that has been working diligently on properly caring for and operating IRTF,” said IfA Director Doug Simons. “The telescopes on Maunakea and Haleakalā play pivotal roles in our nation’s planetary defense system, on top of their amazing scientific and education value, high paying jobs and economic impact.”

About half of IRTF’s observing time is reserved for objects within the solar system, and the remainder is available for general astrophysics. The observing time is openly competed for, with proposals solicited from the entire astronomical community. As a federally-funded facility all observing data from IRTF is made available to the public.

The telescope funding comes from the NASA Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program in the Planetary Defense Coordination Office of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. IRTF’s main role for NASA planetary defense is to spectrally characterize NEOs which can be used to assess potential impact damage. IRTF and UH continue to develop new instrumentation to improve this capability.

Another important role is to provide ground-based observations in support of NASA space missions. Examples include observations to support the Galileo mission to Jupiter in the mid-1990s, and more recently the Juno mission to Jupiter, the Akatsuki mission to Venus (a collaboration with the Japan space agency), and missions to asteroids. As an optical-infrared telescope, a unique feature of IRTF is the ability to conduct daytime observations of planets and comets to within 20 degrees of the sun.

In 2021, IRTF analyzed the characteristics of an asteroid as large as the Golden Gate Bridge that made a close pass by Earth, about five times the distance to the Moon. The NASA telescope played a major role in studying an unusual celestial phenomenon in 1994, the first collision ever witnessed between a comet and a planet.

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

Natatorium.org

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii