Live Video from Subaru Telescope Stuns the Public

July 29, 2002

The Eagle Nebula shows
its magesty even at video rate
from Subaru Telescope.

Catherine Ishida from Subaru
Telescope explains where the
NHK camera is attached to
the telescope.

The audeince watches
the live images.

On the evening of July 4, 2002, Mauna Kea lived up to her reputation as one of the best observing sites in the world; As the clouds parted, a high definition television camera attached to the Subaru Telescope captured jewels in the sky. After the fireworks, an eager crowd of 100 filled the conference room at Subaru Telescope Hilo Base Facility to capacity to participate in possibly the world's first public showing of live video from an 8-meter class telescope.

The supersensitive high definition camera combined with Subaru is 3 trillion times more sensitive than the human eye. The camera was designed by NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, specifically for astronomical use, with a sensitivity 3000 times that of a regular camera and a color response tuned to astronomical objects. Subaru Telescope acts as an “eye” a million times larger than a human's. At a video rate of 30 images per second, the two together can capture images of astronomical objects as clearly as photographs taken with smaller telescopes after hours of exposure. The camera is one of the large suite of instruments that distinguish Subaru from other telescopesof comparable size.

During the event, the control of the telescope was in the hands of the audience. The audience in Hilo requested where to point the telescope to staff on the summit of Mauna Kea through a video conferencing system. Requests included objects both near and far. Pluto is the last planet in our own solar system. The Eagle Nebula where stars are being born out of clouds of gas and dust, the Ring nebula where a dying star illuminates its own remains, and the globular cluster M28, a dense gathering of old stars, are all in our own Milky Way galaxy. The camera also captured several nearby galaxies, the Sombrero galaxy known for its wide dust lane, NGC4565, a spiral galaxy, M51, a pair of interacting galaxies, and M87, and elliptical galaxy with a jet coming out of a black hole at its center. The most distant object was 3C273, a quasar about 2 billion light years away. As the telescope moved from object to object, stars dashed across the television screen like shooting stars.

The assembled crowd was a mixture of astronomers from Subaru and other observatories, and members of the public that gathered at the University of Hawaii at Hilo University Park to watch the July 4th fireworks. Although the system for transferring the live video using optical fiber cables is still under testing, Subaru Telescope with the help of NHK and the Hilo Astronomy Club decided to open its doors to the Hilo public gathered for the fireworks so they too could enjoy the images from the television camera attached to the telescope in preparation for a live broadcast to Japan later in the evening. Subaru Telescope hopes to hold similar events in the future.



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