Subaru Telescope seeks support partners

  • Above: Guests get a tour of the detector lab Wednesday during the Subaru Telescope 20th Anniversary Goji Kara at the telescope’s base facility in Hilo. (Photos by HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

  • Right: Subaru’s Yuko Kakazu holds “Subi” in the simulator lab at the Subaru Telescope office in Hilo.

MAUNAKEA — The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan is looking for additional partners to help fund the Subaru Telescope.

Michitoshi Yoshida, Subaru director, said Japan would remain the owner and main source of funding for the 8.2-meter telescope, located on Maunakea.

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But with funding decreasing for operations, support from other countries is needed.

The 20-year-old telescope costs about $16 million a year to operate, and employs 92 people in Hilo. Yoshida said NAOJ wants partners to contribute a few million dollars a year in return for use of the telescope.

He said talks are underway with potential partners, including some of those participating in the Thirty Meter Telescope project, of which Japan is a partner. An agreement could be reached by the end of the year.

Among the large optical/infrared telescopes on Maunakea, Subaru is unique in that it has only one source of funding.

For example, the Gemini observatory, which has a twin telescope in Chile, has six partner countries, according to the website for the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy.

Yoshida said Subaru remains scientifically valuable, and should for the next few decades.

“Subaru Telescope has a very unique observing capability that is very widefield imaging and widefield spectroscopy,” he said.

The telescope is expected to use that capability to assist TMT once it is built.

“After 2030, Subaru will be one of the best telescopes in the world,” Yoshida said.

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“Because TMT is very high sensitivity and high spatial resolution but TMT cannot observe the widefield of view. This is a very good combination, Subaru Telescope and TMT.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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