Subaru Staff -Part 12-

June 9, 2006

This article contains the interviews of the graduate students who participated in the development of Subaru Telescope’s Second Generation Observational Instruments. These were done at the end of 2005 (current as of date).

Masahiro Konishi :(M) Department of Astronomy, Graduate school of Science, Tohoku University
Tomohiro Yoshikawa :(Y) Department of Astronomy, Graduate school of Science, Tohoku University
Ryuji Suzuki :(R) Department of Astronomy, Graduate school of Science, Tohoku University
Masahiko Kimura :(K) Department of Physics, Graduate school of Science, Kyoto University

Ryuji Suzuki

―― How do you spend your free time?

(R) I like playing sports such as soccer and baseball when the weather allows and reading books indoors when it does not.
(K) Sometimes I go fishing around the Hilo Bay area. I have caught fish as large as 10cm in size!
(Y) I usually sleep a lot on the weekends but sometimes I go driving, hiking or swimming in the ocean.
(M) My hobby is playing the trumpet which I have been doing since I was in junior high. I used to play with a band back in Japan, but now I play with the Hawaii County Band.

―― What was your dream when you were young?

(Y) I have always dreamed about getting a job in the astronomy field.
(R) Actually, I wanted to be a professional soccer player.

Masahiro Konishi

―― What was the first experience which led you into the field of astronomy?

(K) I discovered my fascination with astronomy while I was in undergraduate school.
(R) I was inspired by the science magazine Newton when I discovered it in high school.
(Y) It all started with my trips to the local scientific museums and monthly subscription to the science magazine Tenmon-Guide.
(M) My father was interested in observing, and together, we often watched the night sky from our backyard. He was my inspiration.

―― What was your motivation to go to graduate school?

(M) All I wanted to do was to continue studying astronomy.
(Y) I was actually looking for a job during my senior year of college but decided to continue with astronomy because I liked it so much.
(R) The truth is, I did not study very hard during my undergraduate years and felt it wasn't right for me to continue into a graduate university. Luckily though, at this time I regained my enthusiasm to carry on when I heard a speech by one of the professors who urged students interested in astronomy to continue on to graduate school. I also thought it would be very interesting to build an observational instrument myself.
(K) Subaru was recently built at the time after my graduation when I was in the position to choose a career path. I thought that if I go to graduate school, I could have the chance to join a development team at Subaru and work on creating new observational instruments.

Tomohiro Yoshikawa

―― What do you do at Subaru?

(Y) We all worked together in the development of the new observational instrument MOIRCS that attaches to a cassegrain focus. I created a control device to help the instrument move more smoothly and efficiently. I also developed a system for managing the numerous moving parts of this large instrument.
(R) Efficiency is the most important thing in making actual observations run smoothly.
(M) My responsibility was to fine tune the slit mask exchange system for spectroscopic observations.
(R) My job was to align the optical instruments, such as the lens and mirror, precisely. I also did performance evaluations on the instruments.
(K) I am currently working on a Fiber Multi-Object Spectrograph (FMOS) which is a second generation open-use observation device and has a lot of similarities to the MOIRCS project. Since FMOS attached to the primary focus uses 400 optical fibers, it will be capable of imaging 400 different celestial objects at once. I’m also in charge of designing the primary focus unit for the telescope. We have already begun to test and adjust the FMOS instrument.

Masahiko Kimura

―― What is the status of the instrument?

(Y) For MOIRCS, we attached it to the telescope for the first time in September 2004 and confirmed the functionality of the imaging capabilities. In January 2005, we did the first test in spectroscopic mode. The instrument will be made available for use to astronomers from around the world beginning February 2006.
(K) In May 2005, FMOS was sent from Japan here to Hawaii. We then tested the primary focus unit between the months of August and October. We will begin testing of all FMOS functions in early 2006.

―― MOIRCS and FMOS. It has been several years of making these big instruments. Soon they are going to be open for the world scientists. How do you feel about that?

(R) I was worried whether this instrument is going to work OK or not. After a while, once the instrument started working normally, I did not have to worry anymore.
(Y) Yes, that is true that I feet uneasy if the instrument is used when we are not around. It is also important to improve our software, so I hope we can finish doing that soon.

―― What is the most interesting observation that you are looking forward to with these instruments?

(R) As scientists, we are still struggling to find the answer to the mystery of galaxy evolution. If we observe in the near-infrared we will be able to see the really old objects which can aid us in determining how galaxies have evolved over time.
(K) Compared with observing in visible light, we are able to image much older celestial bodies in the near-infrared. It is important to observe and examine the active galactic nuclei to help understand the formation process of galaxies.
(Y) The MOIRCS members’ area of interest is in the evolution of the universe and how the galaxies in particular have evolved.
(R) Perhaps, we will be able to observe the objects which were formed within 1 billion years of the creation of the universe or even observe the very first object in existence. With the wavelengths that MOIRCS can cover, we are able to observe many different stages in the formation process of galaxies.
(M) If we observe infrared radiation from astronomical objects with MOIRCS, we can get the clue of the formation process of the galaxy 2-3 billion years later since our universe is made.

All members

―― In closing, can you give any advice to those who may be interested in becoming an astronomer or building observational instruments as you have?

(K) We all have questions and doubts during our lifetimes. When you do, you should ask yourself these things and test them in your own way. This type of habit will surely help if you are able to develop an instrument for a telescope.
(R) When making an instrument you will deal with hardware and software. Hardware is those things that you can physically see and touch, so you must think carefully about how you will move it and build it. To be good at this, you need to know the mechanisms of an object and sometimes you will need to come up with ideas that may even be beyond the realm of ordinary thinking.
(Y) I was given my first opportunity to be a part of MOIRCS because I was skilled in software programming, which I have been doing since my undergraduate years. I continued to program even though at that time, writing software with Linux was not very common. Such interests as these may build your character or may become your special talent later in life, so it is always a good thing to work hard on whatever you are interested in now.
(M) I liked science when I was a kid and I often read scientific magazines such as Newton and Astronomy Guide. I also watched TV shows about astronomy, went to scientific museums and continually did things that I liked. Devoting your time to things which you enjoy the most is the best thing in the world!

Subaru Topics: "MOIRCS- Subaru’s new “infrared eye” now open"

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