Subaru Staff -Part 10-

March 24, 2005

We will continue to introduce support astronomers (current as of date).


Support Astronomer for AO system
Shin Oya

From Tokyo, Japan.
Hobbies: swimming, jogging, surfing and traveling

- What brought you to Subaru?

I used to work at the “Communication Research Laboratory” studying turbulence in the atmosphere and how to take shaper images. When we look through the sky, Earth’s atmosphere causes the sharpness of an image to degrade, so I was doing work on how to measure the turbulence. Adaptive optics is a technology for removing the blurring cause by atmospheric turbulence, so it was quite closely related to my previous work.(AO mechanism)

- Tell us about your work.

I am the support astronomer for the AO system (Subaru’s Adaptive Optics System), so I take care of all general issues regarding that instrument. I answer observers’ questions and give advice on how to use the instrument effectively. When the instrument is not in active use, I make sure it remains ready for observing, sometimes making improvements. Maintenance requires many small adjustments and improvements and is absolutely essential. This is our first adaptive optics instrument and its one of a kind, so there are still some unknowns. If the same problems reoccur, it’s and indication that we need to come up with a new solution or preventive measure.

- What aspects of your work to you pay special attention to?

Observing time is precious to each observer. Sometimes it is a once in a year opportunity. I try to make sure that the adaptive optics system is functioning at its best, so that observers can get the best data possible. If there are any complaints during one observing run, I would try to fix the problem before the same observer returns, or make sure that I have duplicates of parts that have failed in the past. I try to help other people understand the instruments so that observing progresses smoothly. I also try to listen to feedback from the telescope operators and observers to make sure improvement in the software as well as hardware.

- What is your research specialty?

Correcting blurring due to atmospheric turbulence to obtain sharp images and measuring the turbulence causing the blurring. When the telescope takes a completely out of focus image, you can see unevenness in what is called the pupil plane image. Measuring the scale of the unevenness can tell you which layer of the atmosphere are causing the blurring. Changes in the unevenness give us information on how quickly the air in that turbulence layer is moving.

- How do you spend your days off?

I treasure my time with my family. We go to the Kona side to swim, for example.

- Do you have any advice for people who hope to find a job like yours?

Opportunities are everywhere, so try out many things. It’s important to actually take action. Find your own solutions through trial and error. I think this advice applies to any endeavor.

Subaru’s Adaptive Optics System (AO)



Support Astronomer for IRCS
Hiroshi Terada

From Kyoto
Hobbies: All types of ball sports such as baseball, soccer, and rugby.

- How did you become interested in astronomy?

I was interested in everything related to outer space science since I was young. I became interested in astronomy specifically much later. I wanted to know about the basic structure of the Universe, so I studied particle physics in college. The particle physics lab I joined in graduate school was doing infrared astronomy. I started building various instruments in the lab, which eventually lead to my astronomy.

- What is your research specialty?

Mainly star formation – how young stars come to be. Studying how planets form and the chemistry that’s involved in the process is my focus. If you look for absorption signatures in the spectrum of material around a star, you can directly determine how much of what kind of matter is there. Specially, I am doing systematic study of how the amount of carbon and oxygen changes with time.

- What makes your field of study interesting?

There is still so much that is unknown. In the Solar System, we can observe comets and asteroids that preserve the original material from the formation of the solar system, but once we look beyond our solar system, such relics are hard to find. I began astronomy just as the development of 8 meter class telescopes and infrared astronomy was allowing astronomers to study comet and asteroid-like materials in other solar systems for first time. Where did life come from? This field can give you answers to that question.

- Which instrument do you support and what makes it special?

I support IRCS, the Infrared Camera and Spectrograph, which can do almost everything an observer may want to do in the near-infrared. You can take images to look at the distribution of material. You can take low dispersion spectra to look for water ice, for example. If you want to study the motions of material you can take high dispersion spectra. IRCS is designed to work with Subaru’s adaptive optics system (AO) so it has extremely high quality optics and accurate alignment to take advantage of the performance increase from using AO with both imaging and spectroscopy. IRCS is possibly the most productive AO instrument in the world.

- What is the most significant result from IRCS so far?

We have done some deep imaging with AO on a region in the sky called the Subaru Deep Field (SDF). SDF was chosen to be compatible with AO observations. The image of the region that with IRCS and AO is the world’s deepest near infrared image to date. We’ve also looked at jets from young stars in the process of forming Jets are an important process in star formation because it helps get rid of regular momentum. By studying the motions in jets using high dispersion spectroscopy we are gaining a lot of insight into this fundamental process.

- How did you become the support astronomer for IRCS?

There is no good reason except the fact that I had been working in instrument development. The observatory needed people who understand the instruments in order to take over the operation from the instrument builders.

- How do you spend your days off?

I spent my days off with my family.

- Do you have any advice for graduate students who may with to pursue astronomy?

If you are serious about working with observational data, come to Hawaii. This is where the real work is happening. Opportunities to take data and the information you need to take it well come to you naturally when you work for Subaru. There is a huge merit to being at an observatory and being at Mauna Kea. If you want to build something yourself the opportunities are here. Some of the best astronomical resources in the world are right here where you can touch them, so come over and lets to astronomy together!

Infrared Camera and Spectrograph (IRCS)



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