National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) of National Institutes of Natural Sciences entered into an agreement on installation and operation of the "Subaru-Asahi Star Camera" on the Subaru Telescope, located atop Maunakea, the Island of Hawai`i, with The Asahi Shimbun Company, a publisher of one of the largest newspapers in Japan. This camera on the telescope’s Summit Facility is expected to expand the fields of astronomy and science through the livestreaming of the view from Maunakea summit region. A signing ceremony for the agreement took place in Tokyo on September 13, with attendance of representatives from the two organizations.
Maunakea on the Island of Hawai`i, the U.S., is well-known as one of the world’s premier observing sites. NAOJ and The Asahi Shimbun Company launched together the plan to mount the ultra-high sensitivity camera on the Summit Facility of the Subaru Telescope to livestream the view from the summit region of Maunakea 24/7. The installation of the camera was discussed and approved by the University of Hawai`i which manages the summit region of Maunakea and other relevant organizations.
Delivered to Hawai`i at the end of 2020, the camera, which was jointly developed by The Asahi Shimbun Company and Sony Corporation, was installed and tested for streaming. However, the summit region presented harsh conditions for the camera as well as staff working for this project with the severe natural environment for its large diurnal temperature range, site-specific strong winds, and low oxygen level that is 60% of the oxygen found at sea level. Despite these difficulties, the observatory’s staff worked to solve each of different technical issues, including unstable streaming. On April 2021, the long-awaited livestreaming finally reached the trial stage to make it available to the public on the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera YouTube Channel.
Since its start of trial, the camera has captured several rare astronomical events, providing data that can be used for scientific research purposes. More than 50,000 people subscribe the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera channel now.
Overcoming all sorts of difficulties and having a clear prospect for stable operation, NAOJ and The Asahi Shimbun Company formally concluded the agreement to commence the full-scale operation and further expand the potential of the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera.
From the summit region of Maunakea at an altitude of about 4,200 meters, some of the most spectacular landscapes you will ever see anywhere open up by day. It is also a great spot to see shooting stars and the Milky Way by night. However, given its low oxygen environment, access to the summit region at night is limited to researchers and others. It made it hard for many people to see those amazing views high up from the mountain. The Subaru-Asahi Star Camera now brings the magnificent skies of Maunakea to people on the Island of Hawai`i, and in Japan and other countries around the world.