In brief

  • UH88 was the first telescope on Maunakea to switch to full remote observing. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Keck hosts virtual astronomy talk July 21

Keck’s next virtual Public Astronomy Talk will be held at 5 p.m. July 21 featuring guest speaker is J. Xavier Prochaska.


Prochaska is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Prochaska will discuss the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and its many influences on modern astronomy. These range from automating analysis of billions of galaxies to detecting the unknown phenomena that hide within the night sky. AI will also revolutionize the approaches used to construct and operate our telescopes, including Keck Observatory.

For more information, including previously recorded talks, visit The July 21 presentation will be online at

Telescope marks 50 years

The University of Hawaii’s 88-inch telescope recently celebrated its golden anniversary on June 26. Often called the UH88, the telescope was dedicated in 1970, beginning decades of incredible scientific output, and ushering in an era of unparalleled astronomy from Maunakea.

When the UH88 first opened, digital cameras did not exist. Astronomers spent long, cold nights at the summit of Maunakea, manually guiding the telescope, using photographic plates and later analog electronic detectors to observe stars, galaxies and planets.

Today, the observatory is undergoing a major renovation to go fully robotic. Automated control systems along with new hardware and technologies will be added so multiple cameras can be utilized in a single night of observing. It is also the only telescope on Maunakea where the science use of the facility is decided entirely by UH astronomers.

“These are projects where you need a lot of time to study many, many objects, or to monitor objects over long periods of time. This type of research is really hard to do on other telescopes so the facility gives our students a real advantage,” said UH88 Director Mark Chun.

When it first opened, the 88-inch was the largest telescope on Maunakea, and the eighth largest in the world. Today, it is the smallest operational telescope on the mountain.

Among UH88’s notable discoveries are the Kuiper Belt (distant objects beyond Neptune in the outer solar system). The doughnut-shaped region was discovered in 1992; today, nearly 2,000 objects are known to orbit in the belt.

Cutting edge LAVA gets $5M AI upgrade

An already impressive laboratory for data visualization at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is collaborating on a major software upgrade with the help of a $5-million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Laboratory for Advanced Visualization and Applications (LAVA) consists of 1,200 square feet equipped with the world’s highest resolution hybrid reality visualization system called the Destiny-class CyberCANOE, which stands for cyber-enabled Collaboration Analysis Navigation and Observation Environment. LAVA also is flanked by numerous ultra-high-resolution stereoscopic 3D and 2D, touch-enabled display walls.

The software running these walls, SAGE2 (Scalable Amplified Group Environment), is getting a big boost from the large grant to UH, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Virginia Tech University to develop SAGE3, which will essentially add Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the mix.


SAGE3 provides scientists with an intuitive framework that integrates state-of-the-art AI technologies with applications, workflows, smart visualizations and collaboration services to help them access, share, explore and analyze their data, come to conclusions, and make decisions with greater speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and confidence.

“SAGE3 augments every step of the scientific discovery enterprise — from quickly summarizing large data, to finding trends and similarities or anomalies among one or more linked datasets, to communicating findings to scientists, public policy and government officials, and the general public, to educating the next-generation workforce,” the National Science Foundation wrote.

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