Hilo Meetings Attract 200 Astronomers
March 30, 2001
Staff at Subaru Telescope have been busy during the past two months hosting two important meetings. The first was the international conference entitled "Astrophysical Ages and Time Scales", and the second was the annual Subaru Telescope Users' Meeting.
The Users' Meeting was held from March 7-9 at Subaru Telescope's Base Facility in Hilo, the first time it's been held outside Japan. The meeting brought together many of the users of Subaru Telescope's first semester of Open Use, as well as researchers from the University of Hawaii and those who had obtained data during the commissioning phase of the telescope and instruments. The first day consisted of reports and discussions on the status of the telescope and its present and future use, while on the second and third days, preliminary results of Subaru observations were presented by 22 users, followed by discussions about second generation instruments and a forum where users and the Observatory discussed issues of policy and support. In addition, 17 poster presentations were available for participants to study.
One of the interesting aspects of the Users' Meeting was the teleconferencing used to permit participation by Observatory staff and users located at four different sites in Japan. Using telephone connections to transfer live video and sound, not only could people in Japan see the meeting as it was happening, they could actually participate in the meeting too. This generally took the form of asking questions after viewing the presentations being broadcast from Hawaii; but on one occasion, the presentation originated from Japan.
A month earlier, during the week of February 5-9, Subaru Telescope and the Gemini Observatory hosted the very first international astronomical science conference ever held in Hilo (where five of the base facilities for eight of the telescopes on Mauna Kea are now located). The Astrophysical Ages and Time Scales conference attracted 170 professional astronomers from 18 countries to spend a week discussing current understanding of what "time" is and how we measure and use it.
The Governor of Hawaii addressing the participants of the Astrophysical Ages and Time Scales conference
Most conferences deal with a fairly narrow topic in astronomy such as star formation or galaxy clusters, or a particular technique like wide-field imaging. This conference chose to address the broad topic of time in an astronomical context.
The opening session featured talks on the nature of time, and views on what we mean when we talk about time. Later presentations given by the participants ranged from measuring the age of the Sun and Solar System, the ages of stars and galaxies, models of galaxy and structure formation, the measurement of the Hubble constant, and a review of the observational evidence supporting the idea that the Universe is expanding. Also reported was the first detection of Uranium in a star, which can be used to determine its age in much the same way that carbon dating is used to measure the ages of fossils and artifacts.
The conference was felt to be important enough that the Local Organizing committee worked hard to share it with the local community. Three evening public lectures were given by visiting astronomers and funding was provided to allow a dozen high school science teachers attend the conference. Several astronomers acted as chaperones to guide the teachers through the jargon and help them understand the science that was presented.
The conference was primarily sponsored by the Gemini and Subaru observatories, with additional help from the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation, the Joint Astronomy Centre, the University of Hawai`i at Hilo and the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array. Further financial contributions were provided by Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics USA, Inc. and Fujitsu America, Inc.
The conference was very well received and it is hoped that there will be many more conferences organized on the Big Island between the various observatories that exist here.