Learn how submillimeter observations contribute to astronomy

“Beyond the visible: Astronomy with JCMT” will be the topic at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center at 7 p.m. Friday, June 21, when Professor Gary Davis, director of the Joint Astronomy Centre, focuses on submillimeter observations and their contribution to astronomy.

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is a partnership between the United Kingdom and Canada and is one of two British telescopes on Mauna Kea. With its 15-meter dish and suite of instruments, the JCMT has blazed the trail in submillimeter astronomy since it opened in 1987.

The JCMT takes images and chemical fingerprints of the cold universe at wavelengths invisible to the naked eye, which allows astronomers to unlock the secrets to the early stages of star and planet formation and to uncover the earliest galaxies in the universe. In this presentation, Davis will describe why astronomers undertake this challenging type of astronomy and the advantages of observing on Mauna Kea.

He will discuss what JCMT has achieved over the past three decades and what the future holds for the telescope.

He will also reflect on why astronomy is important as a means of understanding our place in the universe and why science in general is such a valuable approach to understanding the world in which we live.

Davis’ research has focused on the formation and evolution of planetary systems, using various techniques of infrared spectroscopy from the ground and from space. He has also developed several astronomical instruments, and led a feasibility study for measuring the Earth’s infrared spectrum as a template for studying extrasolar planets and the eventual search for life. Davis has been the director of the Joint Astronomy Centre and its two observatories, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, since August 2002.

Davis was educated in Canada and England, receiving his doctorate from Oxford University in 1987. He was a professor of physics and engineering physics at the University of Saskatchewan for 11 years and was highly decorated for his teaching, including the Master Teacher Award. He holds honorary professorships at the Universities of Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Cardiff, and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from McMaster University.

As director of the JAC for the past decade, he has overseen the evolution of the JCMT and UKIRT from general purpose observatories to highly productive survey instruments with unique capabilities based on world-leading technologies. The program will be hosted by Shawn Laatsch, ‘Imiloa planetarium manager. He will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawaii, pointing out prominent constellations and stars one can see during this time of year.

Admission is $10, with member discounts.


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