Summary of the Subaru and Gemini
July 24, 2008
Mauna Kea is one of the best sites in the world for astronomy, and the mountain displays such unique astronomical qualities that thirteen telescopes from eleven countries now operate on the summit. Scientists travel from around the world and sometimes wait years to conduct their astronomical research at one of the observatories. Two of these observatories include the Subaru Telescope, of course, and the Gemini Observatory.
Both of these world-class facilities are highly desirable for astronomical study due to their large light gathering powers and unique capabilities. Both observatories began operations in 1999 and are recognized as superb 8-meter class telescopes because of the quality of their images: Subaru is 27 feet (8.2 meters) while Gemini is 26 feet (8.1 meters). The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the national center of astronomical research in Japan, operates Subaru, while Gemini Telescopes in Hawaii and Chile are operated under an agreement with the National Science Foundation by a partnership of seven countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina.
Through many years of being neighbors on Mauna Kea and colleagues in astronomy, Subaru and Gemini (North) have formed a unique and positive working relationship. This shared vision has led the two observatories to dream about joint projects for the future. One venture in particular is the instrument WFMOS, Wide-Field Fiber Multi-Object Spectrograph, which will feature highlymultiplexed optical spectroscopy for a variety of science projects. The instrument is currently undergoing conceptual design studies.
To further study their collaborative efforts, Subaru and Gemini hosted a workshop on WFMOS science in Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawaii from 19 to 21 May 2008. The meeting entitled “Cosmology Near & Far: Science with WFMOS” was co-sponsored by JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science), NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory), STFC (UK Science & Technology Facilities Council), and AAL (Astronomy Australia Limited). The meeting intended to build a partnership between the Subaru community and the Gemini members on future science projects, starting with WFMOS. The meeting was well-attended with approximately 80 persons on hand; the delegation was split evenly with those representing Japanese interests and others corresponding to Gemini and its affiliates. The welcoming address to the workshop was presented by Professor Shoken Miyama, Director General of NAOJ, who greeted all in attendance and “invited partnership, cooperation, and collaboration between Subaru, Gemini, and all other observatories on Mauna Kea to advance instrument development in parallel with the expanding boundaries of scientific discovery”.
The workshop featured invited talks, panel discussions, poster sessions, and networking opportunities, and focused on the entirety of science that will be made possible by WFMOS. The daily sessions were designed to share valuable summaries on the current achievements and future objectives to be tackled by WFMOS, specifically the key science fields of galactic archaeology, baryon acoustic oscillations, and galactic surveys. Some discussions focused on modified gravity, neutrino masses, gravitational lensing, and understanding dark energy, while other presentations involved varied perspectives on galaxy evolution, intergalactic medium, active galactic nuclei, and disk galaxy formation.
Many attendees concluded that while other imaging surveys are currently in operations and planning stages, WFMOS will be unique in its highly-multiplexed spectroscopic capabilities and will open up a wide variety of new science opportunities for international astronomers. They also realized that a tight partnership between Subaru and Gemini is necessary to promote and realize the WFMOS project.
On the whole, the workshop was a huge success with many participants enjoying the opportunity to exchange information and ideas, and everyone left the event looking forward to the next joint Subaru/Gemini Science Conference to be held in May 2009 in Kyoto, Japan.