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Telescope timeshare opens up the skies

Back in October, the directors of Subaru, Japan's 8.2-meter telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and Gemini, twin 8.1-metre telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, signed an agreement allowing them to apply for time on each others telescopes without limits.
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Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics Sharpens Subaru Telescope's Eyesight and Opens a New Vision of the Distant Universe

A research team at NAOJ has begun scientific observations with Subaru Telescope's Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (LGSAO) system. The LGSAO uses a powerful laser to illuminate the sodium layer of the atmosphere and create an artificial guide star that shines in the upper atmosphere. The LGSAO system integrates the creation of an artificial guide star with adaptive optics that compensates for atmospheric turbulence. This integrated system delivers to the scientific instruments images that are ten times sharper than previous ones. Consequently, it will facilitate discoveries of new objects and clarify the details of other faintly observed ones.
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Serious Hardware Incident with the Subaru Telescope Interrupts Its Operation

While shutting down the observation system at the end of the night shift during the early morning of Saturday, July 2. 2011, the telescope operator detected an error signal from the top unit of the telescope. The top unit, which includes the Subaru Prime Focus Camera (Suprime-Cam) and auxiliary optics, is located at the center of the top ring of the Subaru Telescope.
The operator contacted the Telescope Engineering Division (TED) and continued to check the status of various parts of the top unit. The TED summoned three staff members who immediately left Hilo for the summit to assess the situation. Meanwhile, the operator, support astronomer, and nighttime observers left the control building and descended safely down to the mid-level dormitory at Hale Pohaku. The incident did not harm any observatory staff or observers.

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Subaru Telescope
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Taiwan joins Japan's project to upgrade Subaru Telescope
Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top academic and science research institute, signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) Friday to collaborate in optical and infrared wavelength astronomy and on the development of a new camera for the Subaru Telescope.

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New focal plane tools and an adaptive optics system will aid in visible- and IR-wavelength imaging of faint and distant astronomical objects.

The Japanese Subaru Telescope is one of the world's largest optical/IR telescopes, with an 8m-diameter primary mirror, and is located atop the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. It has been in operation since 19991 and has seven first-generation instruments with imaging and spectroscopic capabilities attached at its four foci.

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HiCIAO camera
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†The Subaru Telescope, located on the summit of Mauna Kea, is dedicated to exploring the cosmos, gaining a deeper and more thorough understanding of everything that surrounds us. With an 8.2-meter mirror and a suite of sophisticated instruments, astronomers at Subaru Telescope explore nearby stars looking for planetary systems. A giant step towards this goal was made recently with the first-light inauguration of a new state-of-the-art instrument.
There are eight innovative cameras and spectrographs at Subaru optimised for various astronomical investigations in optical and near-infrared wavelengths. On the night of December 3, 2007, a new instrument was brought to life, HiCIAO (High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics). The HiCIAO camera is designed as a technologically adaptable system that will replace the infrared CIAO (Coronagraphic Imager with Adaptive Optics) unit that has been in operation since April 2000. Both systems are designed to block out the harsh direct light from a star, so that nearby faint objects such as planets can be viewed.

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Power Sogo Telescope mirror
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Power Sogo Telescope mirror gets new coating
A small coating chamber for a small telescope? Well, certainly for big purpose.
Power Sogo Telescope is relatively hidden from the traffic in the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus which is not too bad location for a sky viewer in town. Nasty part is the weather of this town. Over the years, the Newtonian primary mirror of 10-inch across and its accompanying flat secondary mirror degraded. For the revitalization of this telescope, the University Astrophysics Club students brought in these mirrors to one of the labs at Subaru's Hilo Base facility where there is a vacuum coating chamber of approximately 20-inches. This chamber produces aluminium annealed tungsten filaments for Subaru's mirror coating. For its primary mirror, about 300 filaments are needed.
Mr. Tomio Kurakami, a coating expert in the Telescope Engineering Division, applied new coating to the UHH's two mirrors using three filaments on Thursday, March 29, 2007.

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Realuminising Subaru's Primary Mirror
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This year, we conducted a three-week maintenance of the telescope including the realuminisation of the primary mirror, and this was a major downtime in three years. As long as the weather allows, the telescope is in business every night throughout the year. During the daytime, instrument exchange, troubleshoot and other engineering or maintenance programs take place. The primary mirror is cleaned twice a month in situ (i.e. without being dismounted), but still the dust piles up. It is time to take a break from continuous operation since August of 2003 not just for the mirror but other critical equipment for long-term use.
Aluminisation process of the primary mirror consists of three major steps: mechanical works for disassembly/reassembly, removal of the old coating, and apply fresh aluminium coating on the glass surface. Among other critical maintenance/upgrade works, dollies for the 2200-ton enclosure were readjusted and lubricated. This task requires a few days per set of dolly, with 4 or more personnel. Works like this cannot be done while observations are done every night. The three-week process was a break for the telescope, but it was a very busy period for staffs at Subaru Telescope.

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The Subaru telescope
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The Subaru telescope will be improving its eyesight by a factor of ten with the completion of a new adaptive optics and laser guide star system. For the past five years, Subaruís adaptive optics development team had been working on developing an advanced adaptive optics system to better remove the twinkle from starlight passing through Earthís atmosphere. At the same time, the team was developing a laser guide star system that can create an artificial star anywhere in the sky, opening up a larger portion of the sky to observations with adaptive optics. In October 2006, the team succeeded in testing both new systems on the telescope.

On October 9, 2006, the team tested the new adaptive optics system and obtained an image of the Orion Nebula with ten times better resolution than without adaptive optics. A comparison of the new image with the first light image from when the Subaru telescope began observing in 1999 shows the dramatic increase in contrast and detail seen in the higher resolution image.

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Position: Latitude: 19d 49m 43s N; Longitude: 155d 28m 50s W, Altitude: 4139 m.

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