Subaru Staff -Part 11-

November 9, 2005

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


Support Scientist for OHS/CISCO
Kentaro Aoki

From Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Hobby: Scuba diving

- Tell us about your work.

As a support Scientist for CISCO/OHS (Cooled Infrared Spectrograph and Camera for OHS/OH-Airglow Suppression Spectrograph), I prepare the instruments and ensure that observations go smoothly for astronomers using the Subaru telescope. I advise them on everything from pre-observation preparation to follow-up data analysis. I guess I would say I act as a kind of a living manual for getting the most from the equipment. I go up to Mauna Kea three or four times a month.

- What are these instruments most often used for?

CISCO is the best instrument available for large-scale telescopes. Combined with the large field of view unique to the Subaru telescope, it is usually used to observe dark, distant galaxies, comets in the solar system, and other such phenomena.

- What makes CISCO special?

By using the OH-Airglow suppressor, you can get a twenty- or thirty-minute exposure when observing near-infrared wavelengths - just as you can when observing visible light. This allows us to be able to collect more accurate data. These characteristics make it excellent for observing the faint light from distant celestial objects. I’d say that being able to obtain a great many extremely sharp images really sets the Subaru telescope and CISCO apart from other devices.

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

Members of the day crew lay the groundwork so that the night viewing can proceed smoothly. We need to insure that everyone always has a firm understanding of what operations were conducted the day before, as well as the conditions of the telescope, the environment on top of the mountain, and other factors.  Based on that information, I prepare for the observations each night. So in a way, each night's observation actually begins during the day.

- What is your research specialty?

I study AGN (Active Galactic Nuclei). AGN emit light by releasing the gravitational energy that drops into black holes. The main question about AGN is why are they so bright? To understand AGN, astronomers have now made observations at all sorts of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, from X-rays to radio waves. It’s a relatively new field of research, so even though we have been able to estimate the AGN black hole mass based on the properties of stars in the galaxy, we still don’t know much about their age or life-cycles. Also, while we know large galaxies have large black holes and small galaxies have smaller ones, how many smaller objects are needed to make a black hole remains an interesting topic of research.

- How do you spend your days off?

I like to go scuba diving in Kona (on the other side of the island) and hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Sometimes I walk around downtown Hilo, which has a nice feel with clean air and lovely blue skies.

- Do you have anything to say to today's young people?

This is a fantastic age we're living in, and not just in the field of astronomy. You can make great deal of accomplishment based on how you apply your talent and take action towards what it is you want to do. So seize the moment and make the most of your opportunities. Find something that fascinates you and do your best to go as far as you can with it. It’s fine if your interests change as your life unfolds. Don’t compare yourself to others, but find out what inspires and motivates you. I want different people to take up the challenge of trying different things. Using the metaphor of a frame, I think we are now in an era in which the frame is expanding. So I hope that you won’t shrink from the great opportunities. Instead, I hope you will go out and be so active that today’s framework becomes too narrow for you and you cannot help but expand it.

Cooled Infrared Spectrograph and Camera for OHS/OH-Airglow Suppression Spectrograph (CISCO)



Support Scientist for Suprime-Cam
Hisanori Furusawa

From Gifu Prefecture, Japan
Hobbies: Drawing pictures and illustrations, stargazing, and listening to pop music. On days off I like to swim at the beach and mix cocktails with my wife.

- What led you to study astronomy?

When I was a child, my mother used to read to me from a science reader called “Science Stories,” and from that I got interested in things like the universe and entomology. When I was in middle school a science teacher I particularly liked gave me a PVC telescope, and so I started going up to the Gifu Observatory. One time I went stargazing in the Hida area with my high school astronomy club. I remember lying on my back and seeing the whole sky filled with stars. From that moment, I felt the motion of the Earth and the vast scale of the Universe, and I suddenly thought, “This is the field I want to go into.” When it came time for me to try to get in to a university, I applied to colleges where I could study astronomy.

- What interests you most about astronomy?

In the field of astronomy, people from various countries and regions around the world are conducting very complicated, very specific research. When all the different parts are understood, it will come together into one big picture. Therein lays the real reward.

- What is your field of specialization, and how did you get interested in that?

I study distant galaxies, galaxies other than our own. I am particularly interested in physically determining the history of these huge structures of different shapes during the 13.7 billion years of the universe’s existence. Also, when I was a junior in college, I decided to focus on studying those faint celestial objects that had fascinated me as a boy.

- Why did you become a support scientist for Suprime-Cam?

In the spring of 2002, Subaru Telescope, the organization, began two large projects, SDF (Subaru Deep Field) and SXDS (Subaru/XMM-Newton Deep Survey). I came here to conduct these two surveys designed to construct data sets on distant galaxies using the light-collecting capabilities of the Prime Focus Camera. While working on these two projects, I wanted to use the skills I had cultivated supporting observations with Suprime-Cam to assist other researchers from around the world, and also use these instruments to polish my own skills as an observational astronomer.

- What is significant about the Suprime-Cam, and what are the latest results it has produced?

Among 8-meter class optical-infrared telescopes, Subaru is the only one with a prime focus camera, Suprime-Cam. It is particularly useful for so-called “survey observations,” in which a great many celestial objects can be optically imaged at the same time. We are able to take advantage of this observational capability to find unusual celestial objects and extremely distant young galaxies. The most important result is that we have discovered a number of galaxies with a redshift of 6.6 (in other words, at a distance of 12.8 billion light years away.) ( Subaru Telescope Detects the Most Distant Galaxy Yet. ) Among these is the most distant galaxy ever observed. This discovery fulfills the purpose for which the Suprime-Cam was designed, which is to clarify the evolutionary process of galaxies. Recently, using the same observation methods, we have discovered distant clusters in which many galaxies cluster together at the farthest reaches of the universe. ( Galaxy Clusters Formed Early. )

- What advice do you have for people who would like to work in the field of astronomy?

It is important to remain flexible. In my case, I had always wanted to become a comic book illustrator, and never expected that I would go into the world of research. My advice is to pay attention to what you are feeling at any given time, and cherish the relationships you develop with people you meet. Always do your best.

Subaru Prime Focus Camera (Suprime-Cam)



Support Scientist for CIAO
Miki Ishii

From Ome City, Tokyo, Japan
Hobbies: Reading, swimming, and skiing. I like to take it easy on my days off and go swimming.

- How did you become interested in astronomy?

In college I studied solid state physics, but then I chose the astronomy lab in graduate school. As to what got me into astronomy, if I really think about it, I had a lot of opportunities to see the stars in the rural environment in which I lived as a child and also in Hokkaido where I went to college. Also, in high school I read Nobel Prize winner Shinichiro Tomonaga’s book “What is Physics?”, which got me interested in astronomy and geophysics.

- What is your field of specialization in astronomy?

I study new stars that have just been born. I mainly work at near-infrared wavelengths doing imaging, spectroscopy and polarimetry. I am particularly interested in determining the evolutionary stage of a celestial object.

- What are the special characteristics of CIAO?

CIAO stands for Coronagraphic Imager with Adaptive Optics. It is a near-infrared imaging camera equipped with a coronagraph and adaptive optics capabilities. The coronagraph makes it possible to block out bright stars in order to observe fainter sources in the surrounding. With ordinary cameras, the bright main star emits too much light to be able to see the fainter objects nearby. However, CIAO increases the dynamic range by hiding the main source with the coronagraph, which effectively increases the resolution.

- What led you to become a support astronomer for CIAO?

I worked as a researcher at the NAOJ headquarters in Mitaka for two years, and the end of my term there coincided with the opening of the CIAO support astronomer position so I applied. I’m an observational astronomer, so I like the fact that in the process of assisting other astronomers’ observations as a support astronomer, I am also gaining experience for my own observations.

- How do you like living in Hilo?

I have been here four months so far, and I like the climate.

- What advice do you have for people who would like to work in astronomy or at Subaru Telescope?

First of all you have to enjoy it. In addition, I think it is important to be the kind of person who, when you think something is mysterious or worth exploring, you have the attitude that you would like to pursue it and find out for yourself.

Coronagraphic Imager with Adaptive Optics (CIAO)



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