JCMT finds hints of life on Venus

An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, UK, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. The detection of phosphine could point to such extra-terrestrial “aerial” life. “When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’s spectrum, it was a shock!”, said Jane, who first spotted signs of phosphine in observations from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawai`i.

Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes – floating free of the scorching surface, with access to water and sunlight, but needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine, which consists of hydrogen and phosphorus, could point to this extra-terrestrial ‘aerial’ life. The new discovery is described in a paper published today in Nature Astronomy.

Artistic impression of Venus depicting a representation of phosphine molecule shown in the inset. The molecules were detected in the Venusian high clouds in data from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Astronomers have speculated for decades that life could exist in Venus’s high clouds. The detection of phosphine could point to such extra-terrestrial “aerial” life. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/L. Calçada & NASA/JPL/Caltech.

The first detection of phosphine in the clouds of Venus was made using the JCMT in Hawai`i. The team were then awarded time to follow up their discovery with 45 telescopes of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. Both facilities observed Venus at a wavelength of about 1 millimetre, much longer than the human eye can see – only telescopes at high altitude can detect it effectively. “In the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing — faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below” said Jane.

The astronomers then ran calculations to see if the phosphine could come from natural processes on Venus. Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Dr William Bains led the work on assessing natural ways to make phosphine. Some ideas included sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning, but none of these could make anywhere near enough of it. Natural sources were found to make at most one ten thousandth of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw. In contrast the team found that in order to create the observed quantity of phosphine on Venus, terrestrial organisms would only need to work at about 10% of their maximum productivity. Any microbes on Venus will though likely be very different to their Earth cousins. Earth bacteria can absorb phosphate minerals, add hydrogen, and ultimately expel phosphine gas.

Team member and MIT researcher, Dr Clara Sousa Silva, had thought about searching for phosphine as a ‘biosignature’ gas of non-oxygen-using life on planets around other stars, because normal chemistry makes so little of it. She comments “Finding phosphine on Venus was an unexpected bonus! The discovery raises many questions, such as how any organisms could survive. On Earth, some microbes can cope with up to about 5% of acid in their environment – but the clouds of Venus are almost entirely made of acid.

The team believes this discovery is significant because they can rule out many alternative ways to make phosphine, but they acknowledge that confirming the presence of “life” needs a lot more work. Although the high clouds of Venus have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees centigrade, they are incredibly acidic – around 90% sulphuric acid – posing major issues for microbes to survive there. Prof Sara Seager and Dr Janusz Petkowski, both at MIT, are investigating how microbes could shield themselves inside scarce water droplets.

The team are now eagerly awaiting more telescope time to establish whether the phosphine is in a relatively temperate part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. This result also has implications in the search for life outside our Solar system.

On hearing the results of the JCMT study, the JCMT’s Deputy Director Dr Jessica Dempsey said “These results are incredible” and went on to say “this discovery made in Hawai`i, by the JCMT, was made with a single pixel instrument. This is the very same instrument that also took part in capturing the first image of a Black Hole, Pōwehi. The discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus really showcases the breadth of cutting-edge research undertaken by astronomers using the JCMT. I am so pleased of the efforts from all our staff here in Hawai`i

JCMT, seen with its white iconic Gore-Tex membrane, open for morning observing. The shadow of Maunakea rises over Hualālai in the distance. JCMT is able to observe during the daytime as it operates at sub-millimeter wavelengths. Image credit: Tom Kerr, UKIRT.

Former UH Hilo astronomy student, E’Lisa Lee who took some of the JCMT data during her time working as a part-time JCMT telescope operator summed up her feelings “An observed biochemical process occurring on anything other than Earth has the greatest and most profound implications for our understanding of life on Earth, and life as a concept.” Adding “Being able to participate in the scientific process, as an operator at JCMT was an incredible and humbling experience. It is my sincerest hope that further observations will allow for greater exploration of Venusian clouds and everything beyond.” E’Lisa currently studying for her Master’s degree in physics at Fresno State University.

The JCMT instrument that captured this phosphine discovery has since retired and been replaced by a new and more sensitive instrument known as Nāmakanui. On the potential of this new instrument, Jessica commented “Like it’s namesake, the big-eyed fish hunting food in the dark waters, we will turn the far more sensitive Nāmakanui back to Venus in this hunt for life in our universe.  This is just the beginning, and I’ve never been more excited to be a part of our boundary-pushing JCMT team.”

JCMT Deputy Director, Jessica Dempsey stands beside the now retired instrument, RxA3m, that made this first detection of phosphine on Venus. The instrument has since been replaced by a more powerful instrument called Nāmakanui. Image Credit: Harriet Parsons.

Supplemental Information

This research was presented in the paper “Phosphine Gas in the Cloud Decks of Venus” published in Nature Astronomy. A copy of the paper will be available with free access from www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1174-4. Further information and resources can be found at: maunakeaobservatories.org/venusnews/

Video assets and additional information available on the Maunakea Observatories website.

Previous papers discussing the nature of phosphine and life on Venus:

The team is composed of: Jane S. Greaves (Cardiff University, UK), Anita M. S. Richards (Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester, UK), William Bains (MIT, USA), Paul Rimmer (Department of Earth Sciences and Cavendish Astrophysics, University of Cambridge and MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK), Hideo Sagawa (Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan), David L. Clements (Imperial College London, UK), Sara Seager (MIT, USA), Janusz J. Petkowski (MIT, USA), Clara Sousa-Silva (MIT), Sukrit Ranjan (MIT), Emily Drabek-Maunder (Cardiff and Royal Observatory Greenwich, UK), Helen J. Fraser (The Open University, UK), Annabel Cartwright (Cardiff University, UK), Ingo Mueller-Wodarg (Imperial College, UK), Zhuchang Zhan (MIT, USA), Per Friberg (EAO/JCMT), Iain Coulson (EAO/JCMT), E’Lisa Lee (EAO/JCMT) and Jim Hoge (EAO/JCMT).

The authors of the paper. Find more of the discussion on social media by following the #VenusNews

`Ōlelo Hawai`i

A copy on the Press Release in `ōlelo Hawai`i is provided here.

Makaola

Dr. Larry Kimura, Associate Professor University of Hawaii, Hilo in the Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani, College of Hawaiian Language was asked to provide assistance with the translation of the news of the detection of phosphine into `ōlelo Hawai`i. The translatio required Dr Kimura to create a new word to describe the possibility of the detection of life. In the process Makaola – a detection of life – was formed.

Maka is the basic word for “eye” and in Hawaiian the nuances or other meanings go on; kūmaka-visible, seen; makaʻala-alert, watchful; makamua-the very first; etc.  Also as used in the Kumulipo when we see “maka liʻi” or tiny eyes, those maka are tiny dots so other meanings for maka are a point of beginning, or like the tip of a pen or spear.  It is the word we use to mean to begin with the causative marker “hoʻo” or hoʻomaka. Ola is the word for life, alive, living, and support.

JCMT – The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

With a diameter of 15m (50 feet) the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is the largest single dish astronomical telescope in the world designed specifically to operate in the submillimetre wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The JCMT is used to study our Solar System, interstellar and circumstellar dust and gas, evolved stars, and distant galaxies. It is situated in the science reserve of Maunakea, Hawai`i, at an altitude of 4092m (13,425 feet).

The JCMT is operated by the East Asian Observatory on behalf of CAMS (NAOC, PMO, and SHAO); NAOJ; ASIAA; KASI; as well as the National Key R&D Program of China. Additional funding support is provided by the STFC and participating universities in the UK and Canada​.

Nāmakanui was constructed and funded by ASIAA, with funding for the mixers provided by ASIAA and at 230GHz by EAO. The Nāmakanui instrument is a backup receiver for the GLT.

ALMA – The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI). ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

Media Contact

Dr. Jessica Dempsey
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, East Asian Observatory
Email: j.dempsey@eaobservatory.org

Dr Jane Greaves
Cardiff University
Email: GreavesJ1@cardiff.ac.uk

JCMT survey reveals “treasure map” for star formation

The JCMT SCOPE Survey has provided astronomers studying the formation of stars a treasure map for follow up observations by the Nobeyama 45-m radio telescope and ALMA to reveal the treasures within. Two such treasures include an image of a multiple star system on the cusp of formation alongside a rare glimpse of a baby star heating up its surrounding material making its womb glow like a pair of eyes. These results were published in a number of papers produced this week in the Astrophysical Journal. 

Dr. Tie Liu, Shanghai astronomer – and until last summer – a visiting researcher in Hilo Hawai`i has been hunting baby stars for over a decade. He is the Principle Investigator of the JCMT SCOPE survey that observed over 3,500 sites where stars were believed to be on the cusp of formation within the Milky Way, these sites are known to be dense cores. The dense cores are “a treasure trove for astronomers investigating the very early phases of star formation” said Tie Liu when asked about the survey, noting that “It’s great that we have powerful tools such as ALMA but ALMA has such a small field of view you need a telescope like JCMT to know where to look!

Figure 1. Top: image of the JCMT with the Orion constellation highlighted (image credit William Montgomerie). Middle: N2H+ maps obtained with the Nobeyama telescope with 850 micon JCMT/SCUBA-2 contours overlaid. In the Middle image the team identified a number of dense cores. Bottom: The ALMA-Morita Array reveals two different substructures within each dense core. Bottom left: multiple stars are seen being formed in the early starless core phase (source G211). Bottom right: a mysterious pair of eyes appear to peer out from the disk around the newly forming star – these highlight rich chemistry occurring in the disk of this newly forming star (Results presented in Tatematsu et al. 2020).

Taking advantage of the JCMT treasure map of dense cores produced by the JCMT SCOPE team is an international research team lead by Gwanjeong Kim and Ken Tatematsu of the Nobeyama Radio Observatory (NRO), Japan. The team have observed over of the 200 dense cores, with the NRO 45-m radio telescope and the Morita Array, which is the East-Asian constructed part of the world’s most powerful radio telescope ALMA.

When discussing the chosen cores to observe with ALMA, Ken Tatematsu, director of NRO and the co-PI of the SCOPE project in Japan stated “We are able to locate exact places for near-future star formation, by using the fact that the deuterium percentage reaches its maximum just at the time of star formation”. Deuterium, which is a special kind of hydrogen, was carefully measured by the team in over 100 cores located in the Orion constellation,with the Nobeyama-45m radio Telescope.

The two rare finds discovered by the team are shown in Figure 1. An image of a multiple star system on the cusp of formation and a glimpse of a baby star heating up its surrounding material making its womb glow like a pair of eyes. Ken Tatematsu said  “what’s exciting is that in the pseudo-disk of the dense core G210, we see these two bright eyes staring back at us – this is the region around the baby star being heated and undergoing a chemical change. Usually such detail is hidden from view, but not anymore!

As to the question why this is such a great find, co-author on this work Tie Liu noted that “from the chemical models such examples as we have found should be quite common, but without the resolution we cannot see the structure. JCMT is the perfect telescope for finding such candidates but we do then need to draw on the power of a telescope such as ALMA”.

These results give us important clues to understand how stars start to form. Commenting on the future of this work Tie Liu said “We will do more systematic studies of these SCOPE dense cores with high resolution interferometric observations (e.g. ALMA), who knows what other treasures will be found”.This work has been published in the following three papers:

  1. Tatematsu et al. 2020 “ALMA ACA and Nobeyama Observations of Two Orion Cores in Deuterated Molecular Lines
  2. Kim et al. 2020 “Molecular Cloud Cores with High Deuterium Fraction: Nobeyama Single-Pointing Survey

Supplementary Information

With a diameter of 15m (50 feet) the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is the largest astronomical telescope in the world designed specifically to operate in the submillimetre wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The JCMT is used to study our Solar System, interstellar and circumstellar dust and gas, evolved stars, and distant galaxies. It is situated in the science reserve of Maunakea, Hawai`i, at an altitude of 4092m (13,425 feet).

The JCMT is operated by the East Asian Observatory on behalf of NAOJ; ASIAA; KASI; CAMS as well as the National Key R&D Program of China. Additional funding support is provided by the STFC and participating universities in the UK and Canada​. Supplementary Information about SCUBA-2:

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) observations were obtained using the “Submillimetre Common User Bolometer Array 2”, a specialized camera known by its acronym, SCUBA-2. SCUBA-2 consists of 10,000 superconducting Transition Edge Sensor (TES) bolometers that allow for simultaneous observations at wavelengths of 450 and 850 microns. Scientists regularly use SCUBA-2 to observe star-forming regions and other astronomical regions and phenomenon.

Supplementary Information about the JCMT SCOPE survey:

Contact Information:

Dr. Tie Liu
Shanghai Observatory
Email: liutie@shao.ac.cn

Dr. Harriet Parsons,
East Asian Observatory, JCMT
Email: h.parsons@eaobservatory.org

 

New OMP and JCMOT log in system

The JCMT software team has been working hard to create a way for projects to be accessed by individual user log in rather than project wide shared log in/passwords. Going forward, to access programs in the OMP and JCMTOT  you will need to log in via  your Hedwig account.

PIs will be able to choose who has access on each project’s contacts page.  An advantage of the new system will be that you need only log in once to access all of your projects.

A helpful guide to these changes is provided in this OMP and OT access guide.

JCMT user are also reminded that a new version of the JCMT Observing Tool (JCMTOT) has been released.

 

Accessing the OMP:

 

The new JCMTOT and the JCMTOT log in window:

On sky operations to resume

After two months of hiatus in operations, we are pleased to announce that EAO will begin preparatory work to bring JCMT to on-sky operations. This decision comes after Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige identified the Observatories as part of the state’s list of low-risk organizations and businesses that are safe to reopen.

Recognizing the gravity of public health concerns over the global health pandemic and placing the safety of staff as paramount importance, the Observatory will continue to follow all health guidelines from state and local officials. The phased approach will include minimizing base facility activity and restricting summit work to only essential telescope operations, including critical maintenance of instrumentation and the facilities.

We will initiate operations in a limited on-site-staff mode, with most of our EAO staff continuing to work from home. We are putting into practice policies on hygiene and social distancing to ensure the safety of our staff and of our community here in Hawaii.

With safety our highest priority, we are nevertheless very happy to announce we will be returning to collecting the highest quality science to you, our JCMT user community. We thank you for your support during this time and ask that you keep engaging with us to help you bring your JCMT science to the world. The EAO `ohana continues to stay strong, healthy and optimistic, and we hope that you and your families continue to stay safe and well.

– with thanks, and on behalf of the entire EAO `ohana,

Jessica

COVID-19 operational update

Once again, staff at the East Asian Observatory, send our thoughts out to our community across the world and hope you and your families are well and safe.

The Governor of Hawaii has announced a ‘stay-at-home’ order for the entire State, effective from Wednesday 25th of March, through to April 30th. We hope that this order will help us here in the islands to slow and minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community. As you know, JCMT and EAO has been on operational hiatus since March 13th through to the end of March. In compliance with this order, we will be extending the hiatus until April 30th.

As we’ve mentioned before, all of our staff are now working from home, diligently and creatively, to continue to deliver you science support, data reduction assistance or anything else you need – so please continue to reach out to them.

We are committed members of this island community, and are glad we are doing what we can to help our families, friends and those most at risk in our community. Please take care of yourselves, and your families, and we thank you for your continued support.

with thanks,
Jessica on behalf of the EAO `ohana.

EAO and JCMT operational policy changes to mitigate coronavirus risks

On behalf of all of us here at East Asian Observatory, we hope you – our EAO/JCMT community – and your families are well and safe around the world, as we all face the challenges of the coronavirus in our regions and communities.

Here at EAO headquarters in Hawaii, while we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19, we have made the decision, effective today, Friday March 13th, to reduce our operations to a minimalist mode, with the majority of our staff working from their homes. Our telescope operators, administrators and daycrew, will continue to operate JCMT remotely and collect our user community the very best science, while it remains safe for us to do so. We have strong policies on social distancing, hygiene and other practices to ensure our staff are safe and healthy at all times. At this time, we are not traveling, or having incoming visitors, and are looking to do everything we can to keep our `ohana (family) and community healthy. 

Please continue to keep in contact, electronically, with our support astronomers and we will continue to give you everything you need to produce the amazing science that makes us so proud. It is in times of great challenge when we find out what is most important – and for all of us here at EAO – that is to be sure that we are doing everything we can to keep our staff, their families, and our island community safe and well. We hope you will support us in this effort, we will continue to update you as time goes on and if things change, and most importantly, we send you our hopes that you and your families are well and safe also.

On behalf of your EAO `ohana,
Jessica

Open Enrollment Now Open

On the first of February 2019 the JCMT will allow into the JCMT queue a number of new Large Programs (alongside extension requests of existing programs). If you are interested in joining one of the new programs or programs that were approved for an extension please visit the Large Programs webpages.

Astronomers from EAO region (CN, JP, KR, TW) or partner (CA, UK) institutions are welcome to join new programs under the Open Enrollment process as well as astronomers from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesian as these regions have “observer” status with the JCMT. Open Enrollment to programs approved for time during the 20A Call for Large Programs is open now and will close March 13th 2020. To sign up to join the 20A Large Programs please visit:

JCMT 20A Large Program Open Enrollment page

Open Enrollment will close March 13th 2020.

SMA fringe test with Nāmakanui a success

The JCMT had a successful fringe test yesterday with the SMA using the new instrument Nāmakanui; on loan at JCMT from ASIAA. The JCMT got fringes without problems which is really excellent news. This is good progress with an East Asian VLBI and Event Horizon Telescope run schedules in 2020. JCMT staff also confirmed the basic orientation of the lambda/4 plate – used for polarization measurements. Poor weather does mean there is still more to do, but congratulations to all involved. Staff are now looking to further testing of Nāmakanui at the EHT test run in January and for data taking during the March/April EHT campaign.

EHT Consortium meets in Hilo

The Event Horizon Telescope Consortium met in Hawai`i for the first time since the release of the first image of a Black Hole Pōwehi. The meeting took place at the Hilo Naniloa Hotel during the week of December 5th. In addition to the meeting a public talk by Dr. Ziri Younsi and Dr. Junhan was given on Friday December 6 at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s planetarium.

JCMT 2019 Users Meeting underway in Taiwan

The 2019 JCMT Users Meeting is underway at ASIAA in Taiwan. If you wish to watch the talks remotely please visit the program pages. This link will also provide the pdfs of the talk being given, and pdfs of the poster presentations. EAO staff members Mark Rawlings, Sarah Graves and Alex Tetarenko are there in person throughout the meeting to answer any questions you might have about JCMT observing and data analysis.

JCMT shifts to Remote Operations

JCMT has began a new era. Starting November 1st all data obtained at the JCMT will be observed remotely from Hilo. The first night of Remote Observing was staffed by JCMT Telescope Operator Mimi Fuchs.

JCMT astronomers who obtain data on a given night will now receive an automated email to inform them of observation being taken. At that time users are welcome to “eavesdrop” on operations by joining a remote connection directly to the JCMT Remote Observing Control room (JROC) in Hilo via the link provided in the automated email.

JCMT resumes night time operations

Dear JCMT Community,

We are pleased to announce that we have resumed night time operations at the JCMT. Our first night on sky way Sunday August 11th where we did a functional check out of our systems, took some engineering observations, followed by observations for the Large Program Queue. Our beloved Jim Hoge was the telescope operator in charge and was very happy to be back collecting precious scientific data. Currently we are limited to SCUBA-2 observing only whilst HARP undergoes engineering work. We hope to have it back on sky in September.

We would like to say a big thank you to our JCMT community for their support, patience and understanding. As always the safety of everyone on the mountain is of paramount importance to us.

 

Remote Operations

East Asian Observatory is excited to announce that JCMT will be moving to fully remote operation from November 1st, 2019. From that date forward, JCMT will not require visiting observers to staff observing runs at the telescope.

The close collaboration between our user community and the Observatory is one of the greatest strengths of the JCMT. EAO will continue to enhance this relationship in the new era of fully remote operations via visiting young student programs, online real-time access to nighttime observing, and a range of other initiatives. We welcome your ideas and need your contributions to continue to produce the high impact science that we are all so proud of at JCMT. EAO welcomes short- and long-term visits to the Observatory to meet and collaborate with staff and learn about data reduction and analysis techniques. Astronomers wanting to work with our upcoming new instrument suite or utilize complex observing modes (e.g. VLBI) will also be encouraged to visit the JCMT to assist with commissioning efforts to ensure high quality science is produced.

In addition to welcoming visiting astronomers, the EAO will continue to host the JCMT Users Meeting yearly (this year in Taiwan) and will continue to send observatory staff to our regions when requested for workshops.

Remote operation is not a new concept for the JCMT, having been done in the past on occasion, and routinely via Extended Observing shifts since 2013/2014 (for more see the January 2014 Newsletter). Progress towards fully remote observing has been moving at an excellent pace. The observatory’s engineering team has been working hard this summer to overhaul and upgrade JCMT systems – including an overhaul of the roof and door hydraulics – and this work is on schedule to be complete well in advance of our planned switchover in November.

The Observatory appreciates your support and understanding as we advance into to this exciting new era for JCMT science. If you have any questions or concerns, please email our helpdesk@eaobservatory.org.

Image Credit: William Montgomerie

As a reminder, to get up-to-date information about the JCMT please send an e-mail to jcmt_users+subscribe@eaobservatory.org.

EAO Futures meeting – a stepping stone to White Papers

The EAO Sub-mm Futures meeting held last week in Nanjing was a great success. All talks from the meeting are provided on the meeting program pages.

At the meeting the JCMT observatory had two major announcements:

1) The Observatory is seeking White Papers in support of a new 850 micron camera

The observatory seeks community input in the form of scientific White Papers in support of a new 850 micron camera for the JCMT. More information regarding the white papers will be provided at the EAO Futures Discussion wiki. Specifically White papers will be sought for:

The observatory is also soliciting for additional White Papers in addition to the above. All White Papers are to be submitted (visit the EAO wiki for a comprehensive list that have already been proposed). Deadline June 30th. A detailed description of the specification for the new 850 micron camera can be found here.

2) Announcing the JCMT Call for Large Programs (III)

The East Asian Observatory is pleased to provide an announcement of the third Call for JCMT Large Programs. At this time 4,800 hours will be available for Large Programs up until the end of the 2022B semester. This information is being provided ahead of the opening of the 20A Call in order for current and new teams to pursue discussion and planning. Submissions will be accepted from August 15th up until the September 15th deadline. This will likely coincide with the 20A PI Call. Fore more details click here. To reach the proposal handling system, Hedwig, and submit a proposal click here:

https://proposals.eaobservatory.org/

For further details visit our proposal web pages.

JCMT Plays Critical Role in Producing World’s First Image of a Black Hole – Pōwehi

MAUNAKEA, HAWAIʻI –– Two of the world’s most powerful telescopes, located atop Maunakea, played a vital role in producing the world’s very first image of a black hole. Hawai‘i-based James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and Submillimeter Array (SMA) are part of the unprecedented Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project. JCMT is operated by the East Asian Observatory; SMA is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

In April 2017, a groundbreaking observational campaign brought together eight telescopes at six locations around the globe to capture an image of Pōwehi, a supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy.

Pōwehi

Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.

“Maunakea makes this discovery and the spectacular image of Pōwehi possible,” said Dr. Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of East Asian Observatory’s James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. “It’s perfect remote position, and the dry conditions on Maunakea’s summit, allow JCMT and SMA to collect the tiny amount of light that only touches our planet in a few very special places. Like the mountain itself, every drop of light we gather is precious.”

Astronomers collaborated with renowned Hawaiian language and cultural practitioner Dr. Larry Kimura for the Hawaiian naming of the black hole. Pōwehi, meaning embellished dark source of unending creation, is a name sourced from the Kumulipo, the primordial chant describing the creation of the Hawaiian universe. Pō, profound dark source of unending creation, is a concept emphasized and repeated in the Kumulipo, while wehi, or wehiwehi, honored with embellishments, is one of many descriptions of pō in the chant.

“It is awesome that we, as Hawaiians today, are able to connect to an identity from long ago, as chanted in the 2,102 lines of the Kumulipo, and bring forward this precious inheritance for our lives today,” said Dr. Kimura, associate professor at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language. “To have the privilege of giving a Hawaiian name to the very first scientific confirmation of a black hole is very meaningful to me and my Hawaiian lineage that comes from pō, and I hope we are able to continue naming future blackholes from Hawai‘i astronomy according to the Kumulipo.”

Dr Jessica Dempsey, Dr Larry Kimura, Dr Geoff Bower discuss the results at the JCMT, in front of the 15m dish.

The SMA and JCMT telescopes are key members of the Event Horizon Telescope project, which links together strategically placed radio telescopes across the globe to form a larger, Earth-sized telescope powerful enough to see a Lehua flower petal on the moon.

“SMA and JCMT, working together as one ‘ohana, pioneered the revolutionary technique to see such tiny and faint objects and they were critical in capturing the image of Pōwehi,” said Geoff Bower, chief scientist for Hawai‘i operations of Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. “The spirit of aloha required to unite scientists and observatories across the world was born right here on Maunakea. And powerful new capabilities coming soon at SMA and JCMT mean that Hawai‘i’s groundbreaking contributions to understanding our universe are just beginning.”

The participation of the SMA and JCMT as the far-west anchor point of EHT’s telescope array allowed astronomers to effectively observe and “photograph” supermassive black holes, among the most mysterious and powerful objects in the cosmos.

About James Clerk Maxwell Telescope
Operated by the East Asian Observatory, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is the largest astronomical telescope in the world designed specifically to operate in the submillimeter wavelength region of the spectrum. The JCMT has a diameter of 15 meters and is used to study our Solar System, interstellar and circumstellar dust and gas, and distant galaxies. It is situated near the summit of Maunakea, Hawai‘i, at an altitude of 4,092 meters.

The JCMT is operated by the East Asian Observatory on behalf of The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan; Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan; the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute; Center for Astronomical Mega-Science, China. Additional funding support is provided by the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom and participating universities in the United Kingdom and Canada. The East Asian Observatory also proudly partners with Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India. Click here for more information.

About Event Horizon Telescope

The EHT collaboration involves more than 200 researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America. The international collaboration is working to capture the first-ever image of a black hole by creating a virtual Earth-sized telescope. Supported by considerable international investment, the EHT links existing telescopes using novel systems — creating a fundamentally new instrument with the highest angular resolving power that has yet been achieved.

The individual telescopes involved are; ALMA, APEX, the IRAM 30-meter Telescope, the IRAM NOEMA Observatory, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano (LMT), the Submillimeter Array (SMA), the Submillimeter Telescope (SMT), the South Pole Telescope (SPT), the Kitt Peak Telescope, and the Greenland Telescope (GLT).

The EHT collaboration consists of 13 stakeholder institutes; the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, the East Asian Observatory, Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt, Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique, Large Millimeter Telescope, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, MIT Haystack Observatory, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Radboud University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

This research was presented in a series of six papers published today in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

More information on the Event Horizon Telescope can be found on the EHT website. For a copy of the Press release in `ōlelo Hawai’i click here.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Dylan Beesley, Director, Bennet Group Strategic Communications

dylan at bennetgroup.com

Dr Jessica Dempsey, Deputy Director

j.dempsey at eaobservatory.org

 

Reactions to the news

Selection of Media

Regional Press Releases (in local language)

Additional resources including animations

NSF Media Materials

 

 

International Women’s Day 2019

The Women of Maunakea once again met to celebrate their achievements and seek more advancements at this years International Women’s Day event held on March 3rd at Imiloa Astronomy Centre, Hilo, Hawai`i.

At the event our organization introduced a new equality challenge for the entire astronomy community on Hawai‘i Island, pledging to support equality and diversity within their ranks. Jessica Dempsey, Deputy Director of EAO/JCMT stated that

“Living in one of the most diverse states in the country, host to the most female astronomers in the world, we are uniquely positioned to serve as a model of progress toward gender equity and diversity in the workplace”

Jessica seeks to get to gender parity within the ranks of the organization by 2024 .

The event has been followed with a number of social media posts by the Maunakea Observatories within Hawai`i in support of International Women’s Day 2019 held on March 8th (#IWD2019).

Big Island Now – Maunakea Observatories Launches Equity Challenge on International Women’s Day

Big Island Video News – International Women’s Day Mixer At Imiloa

Discovering the Cosmic Nurseries of Giant Elliptical Galaxies

The birth of giant elliptical galaxies is a violent process, with most stars originating from incredible star-forming episodes and several galaxy mergers within large-scale structures (dubbed protoclusters). This formation process happened in the early epochs, when the Universe was only a few billion years old. Currently, researchers using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) on Maunakea, Hawaiʻi are trying to locate the progenitors of elliptical galaxies, and thus protoclusters, using several observational techniques.

Astronomers have recently discovered a handful of rare, enormous nebulae that copiously emit in the Hydrogen Lyman-alpha transition, a tracer of intergalactic gas. These emissions cover vast distances, up to 30 times larger than the Milky Way. Most of these Enormous Lyman-Alpha Nebulae (ELANe) host multiple active galactic nuclei and are surrounded by several Lyman-alpha emission galaxies. These ELANe are prime candidates for progenitors of elliptical galaxies and massive protoclusters in the early stages of assembly. While these regions are promising, researchers are now tasked with determining the presence of protoclusters and of heavy star formation associated with each ELAN.

An international team of researchers started using the SCUBA-2 instrument on JCMT to characterize these protoclusters and the associated ELAN. Observing at 450 and 850 microns allows SCUBA-2 to capture the emission from dust powered by violent episodes of star formation, something that is not possible with optical telescopes.

Results from the targeted ELAN MAMMOTH-1 field (Fig. 1) revealed the presence of a violent starburst galaxy and emission from a veiled active galactic nuclei (Fig. 2). These sources likely power the extended Lyman-alpha emission, and could be the progenitor of an elliptical galaxy.

In addition, researchers find four times the number of dust-obscured sources in ELAN
MAMMOTH-1 compared to other standard regions. This likely confirms the presence of a rich structure surrounding ELAN MAMMOTH-1, and hints at the presence of a protocluster, hosting the progenitor of an elliptical galaxy. Figure 3 shows the distribution of Lyman-alpha emitting galaxies compared to the SCUBA-2 detections within the observed field. Hopefully, follow-up observations will confirm the relationship between these newly detected sources and a protocluster surrounding the ELAN. For now, these findings seem to agree with the expected theoretical characterizations of cosmic nurseries of giant elliptical galaxies.

Figure 1: ELAN MAMMOTH-1 at z=2.3. This figure shows the surface brightness map (in units of erg/s/cm2/arcsec2) of the Hydrogen Lyman-alpha emission of the ELAN MAMMOTH-1 using a custom-made narrow-band filter. The map is color-coded following the level of surface brightness (see colorbar on the left). The nebula is clearly extended on intergalactic scales (hundreds of projected kiloparsecs; see yellow scale). The red star indicates the position of the likely powering source of this extended emission (see Figure 2). This figure was adapted from Cai et al. (2017). Image Credit: Arrigoni Battaia F., Cai Z.

Figure 2: Spectral energy distribution for the source powering the ELAN MAMMOTH-1. The data-points are from Large Binocular Camera (Large Binocular Telescope) imaging and the Wide-field InfraRed Camera (United Kingdom Infrared Telescope) (Cai et al. 2017 and Xu et al. in prep.; blue), AllWISE source catalog (Wright et al. 2010; orange), the SCUBA-2 (JCMT) observations (magenta), and the FIRST survey (Becker et al. 1994; green). The SCUBA-2 data are key in constraining the spectral energy distribution of this source, allowing researchers to infer the presence of an obscured active galactic nucleus and of intense star formation of the order of 400 solar masses per year. Indeed, the grey line is the best fit model which includes a hot-dust emission component inherent of active galactic nuclei and a strong dust emission likely powered by intense star formation. This figure was adapted from Arrigoni Battaia et al. (2018) Image Credit: Arrigoni Battaia F./European Southern Observatory.

 

Figure 3: Location of known sources surrounding the ELAN MAMMOTH-1. The small black circles indicate the known galaxies emitting Lyman-alpha emission within the known galaxy large-scale structure surrounding the ELAN MAMMOTH-1. The brown crosses indicate the quasars within such large-scale structure. The large blue circles and yellow squares indicate the sources detected within the two bands of the SCUBA-2 instrument, 850 and 450 microns respectively. The orange diamonds indicate the only two sources with both Lyman-alpha emission and SCUBA-2 detection. One of them is the ELAN MAMMOTH-1. The number of detected sources at 850 microns in the SCUBA-2 data reveals four times more dust-obscured sources than in “standard” regions, likely confirming the presence of a rich protocluster surrounding the ELAN MAMMOTH-1. The brightest of the SCUBA-2 detections coincide with the peak of the known galaxy distribution (traced by the green contours) within this large-scale structure (numbers close to each blue circle indicate the flux at 850 microns). This figure was adapted from Arrigoni Battaia et al. (2018) Image Credit: Arrigoni Battaia F./European Southern Observatory.

Media Contacts:

European Southern Observatory/Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics
Fabrizio Arrigoni Battaia
farrigon at eso.org

European Southern Observatory
Chian-Chou Chen
ccchen at eso.org

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope
Harriet Parsons
h.parsons at eaobservatory.org

About The Authors

The international authors of this paper are from European Southern Observatory, Germany, Durham University, UK, University of California, USA, Leiden University, Netherlands, Tsinghua University, China, and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, South Korea.

 

 

Observing Comet 46P/Wirtanen from the JCMT

Comet 46P/Wirtanen is known as a hyperactive comet. Hyperactive comets are a small family of comets whose activity levels are higher than expected. In addition to being hyperactive 46P/Wirtanen will make the 10th closest ever cometary approach to Earth of modern times (0.08au) this month.

JCMT with Comet 46P/Wirtanen. Credit: EAO/JCMT/Kevin Silva

JCMT astronomers will take this opportunity to map the distribution of chemicals like hydrogen cyanide and methanol in this comet’s coma, to try and determine if these chemicals emerged directly from the comet nucleus or were formed in the coma from other chemicals. This mapping will be performed by the JCMT spectral line instrument; HARP. In addition to observing these chemicals the astronomers are hoping the comet will be bright enough to  make other measurements that that will shed light on the original location and conditions of the comet’s formation within the very early stages of what we now know to be our Solar System.

JCMT comet hunters Iain Coulson, Yi-Jehng Kuan, Fang-Chun Liu along with Support Astronomer (Steve Mairs)

For more information on comet 46P/Wirtanen visit: http://wirtanen.astro.umd.edu/46P/

Comet 46P/Wirtanen from the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2018 November 15, Image Credit & Copyright: Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN).

ABC Film Crew Visit JCMT

This past week the JCMT was host to a film crew from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, based in Sydney. The crew were visiting Hawaii as part of a science television program  called Catalyst. Specifically they were out visiting the JCMT as part of a program about the Black Hole at the centre of our Milky Way, and how JCMT, along telescopes from around the world are coming together to form the Event Horizon Telescope – looking to take an image of the shadow around the Black Hole at the centre of our Galaxy.

 

JCMT supports STEM Fest 2018 for Big Island Girl Scouts

The EAO Outreach Team was thrilled to be invited to help out at the 2018 STEM Fest event held in Waimea at the Kahilu Town Hall for Big Island Girl Scouts. The event, attended by 75 girls on November 17th, provided the opportunity to experience hands on activities from a variety of science and engineering fields.

JCMT staff members Alexis Achohido and Mimi Fuchs worked with Girl Scouts to discover how astronomers know what stars are made of. In particular we highlighted the work of  Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who proposed a theory for the composition of stars in her 1925, her PhD Thesis!

As well as looking at what stars are made of we also looked at what dense interstellar dust clouds are made of and made our very own candy molecules.

Maunakea Gender Equity and Diversity Survey 2018 Report

In July 2018, the Maunakea Gender Equity and Diversity Committee distributed a survey to the staff at the Maunakea astronomical organizations. The survey was intended to invite opinion on the current state of equity and diversity in the Maunakea astronomy community and seed conversation and ideas for enhancing diversity and inclusion in our organizations across our islands.

The report on the results of the survey is here:

Maunakea Gender Equity and Diversity Survey 2018 Report

and the Appendix A, listing the survey questions, is provided for reference:

Gender Equity and Diversity Survey questions

The first results are presented by Jessica Dempsey at the Maunakea Users’ Meeting on October 4th, 2018. A PDF of the talk is linked here for convenience. For usage or distribution of these data, please contact Jessica Dempsey: j.dempsey “at” eaobservatory.org.

Photo by Oro Whitley

– 20181004

 

POL-2 data reduction fix for source blurring

POL-2 is the JCMT’s sub-millimeter polarimeter working at both 450 and 850 microns. POL-2 is a polarimeter not a detector, and so requires SCUBA-2 for use. It is used to trace the alignment of dust particles at sub-millimeter wavelengths and thus the magnetic field orientation and strength (with some additional physics added into the mix) of regions in our Universe!

Recently it has been found that sometime there is a loss of synchronisation between data values and pointing information in the data reduction process (CALCQU, run by pol2map as part of step 1). This loss of synchronisation is triggered by anomalous values in the array of HWP (Half Wave Plate) angles stored in the raw data. The result is blurring (or smoothing) of sources in some POL-2 maps (see figure below).

The fix is to download our rsync this build of the starlink software and re-reduce your data. If you look at your re-reduce data you may find that some of your maps improve, depending on whether any of your observations suffered from the blurring problem. The size of the improvement will depend on how many blurred observations you have.

For regions where multiple observations were used to produce the final maps the issue may have been less pronounced if obsweight=yes was used.

In addition, users wishing to reduce POL-2 450 micron data are asked to ensure the data have been reduced using the latest starlink 2018A software prior to this release there was a bug in the software which caused a 4 degree difference  in the angular zero point at 850 and 450, so all 450 vector maps produced so far will have a systematic error of 4 degrees in the vector angle, unless updated software (rsync starlink or 2018A starlink) was used.

The image shows two total intensity maps made from an observation of OMC1. Left: before the fix for blurring. Right: after the fix for blurring.

Also did you know you can combine various I maps into a cube to view as a movie? You can do this (assuming you ran pol2map with “mapdir=maps”) by running:

kappa

paste in=maps/\*Imap out=Icube shift=\[0,0,1\]

gaia Icube

Then in gaia, in the pop-up window that holds the cube visualisation controls, drag the “Index of plane” slider left or right to step through the planes in the cube!

You can do the same for the Q or U maps by replacing “I” with “Q” or “U” above (note, that’s an upper case “I” for the externally masked I maps – use a lower case “i” for the auto-masked I maps).

– 20180724

SMU work and data checks

In May our engineering staff undertook major maintenance work of the Secondary Mirror Unit on the JCMT. After this work it was noted that the Secondary mirror was sometimes vibrating, which lead to beam deformation. This was noticed due to sporadic increased FCF values – and could also be seen in the aspect ratio of our calibrators (see image below). Observers who collected data between UT dates May 24th 2018 and 08:10UT on June 30th 2018 should be aware of this issue. Astronomers who may have affected observations should check their data closely. This issue was noted to be intermittent. If you have questions about the data quality please contact your Support Scientist or the observatory directly.

On June 30th, we applied a temporary work-around to account for these SMU vibrations. To implement a more permanent solution, the observatory briefly removed the GoreTex membrane to work on the Secondary Mirror Unit. This work was performed between Tuesday July 24th, and Monday, July 30th.  The PI and Large Program time were unaffected.

Below is a plot showing the aspect ratios of calibrator CRL 2688 over time. The blue, shaded region represents the nominal values. Note that the high aspect ratios observed in between the temporary and permanent fix (boxed in red) were part of a low elevation, poor weather (wet grade 5), poor seeing engineering and commissioning project. Regular observing was unaffected.

 

 – 20180815

CHIMPS-2 members meet in Liverpool

Members of the CHIMPS-2 Large Program met for a two day meeting in Liverpool on June 28th and 29th. The meeting covered data collection, reduction and analysis with astronomers from all over the globe. For more information on the CHIMPS-2 project click here. We wish the team “clear skies” as they look to expand the JCMT CO heterodyne data towards the Galactic Centre this summer.

– 20180708

2018 OT update

We are always striving to do better at the JCMT and that means we often update our software. One software update that uses should be aware of is a new version of the JCMT Observing Tool.

It is particularly important to note that the OT version used for all semester 18B MSB preparation must be 20180516 (or newer). This may be checked via the OT start-up splash screen and also via the “Help -> About” menu option.

– 20180525

Engineering shutdown – May 2018

From time to time the JCMT is closed due to major maintenance work. The next scheduled closure of the JCMT will occur from April 30th 2018 to mid May 2018. During this time the Gore-Tex membrane windblind will be removed to provide access to the Secondary Mirror Unit for maintenance work. As the telescope will be unavailable for science during this time the SCUBA-2 Gas Handling System will also be worked on. SCUBA-2 will be warm during this period and should back to operational temperature/available for science use by the end of May.

– 20171201

Membrane removal scheduled for December 2017

The staff at EAO would like to announce that we are planning an approximately month-long observing campaign without our iconic Gore-Tex membrane windblind.

The removal of the membrane is due to the high demand for sub-mm polarimetry. Currently the instrument POL-2 is commissioned and working beautifully at 0.85mm, with some fantastic science results. POL-2 science at 0.85 mm has been so successful that we are keen to see if operating without the membrane – which can limit the throughput and increase instrumental polarization – we can commission POL-2 at 0.45 mm.

Observing without the membrane is not our normal mode of operation and the telescope will have additional operational limitations during this time. The JCMT will not take daytime observations and the operational wind limits will be reduced.

We expect to remove the membrane early in December and thank the JCMT astronomical community for their support.

– 20171122

Green Land Telescope Receiver testing progressing well at the JCMT

The Greenland Telescope (GLT) is a novel project; taking a 12-meter radio antenna – prototype for the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) project from Chile, and relocating this telescope to Greenland.

By repurposing this telescope astronomers can take advantage of the near-ideal conditions of the Arctic to study the Universe at specific radio frequencies. Whilst the telescope is being commissioned the initial receiver that will be used at the GLT is being tested at the JCMT in Hawaii. Last week the alignment of the instrument was performed this morning using the Sun as a source – and at the JCMT the first astronomical source for this instrument!

form more information visit: www.asiaa.sinica.edu.tw/project/vlbi.php and www.cfa.harvard.edu/greenland12m.

The GLT receiver installed inside the receiver cabin on the JCMT.

The inside of the GLT receiver

Delivery of the GLT receiver to JCMT

– 20170814

EAO Mid Term Review Committee meet in Hilo

The EAO Mid Term Review committee are meeting this week in Hilo to discuss the future of the JCMT. When the East Asian Observatory took over operation of the JCMT back in 2015 it was for an initial 5 years. Since that time we have had 5 semesters of great science. We have successfully completed three large programs (S2COSMOS, SCOPE, MALATANG). We have uncovered new star-forming events in the sub-mm. We have discovered stellar mass black holes. Our EAO regions have gained access to both Subaru and SMA. Recently we welcomed Vietnam as an observing partner in the JCMT. So much to celebrate!

– 20170727

EACOA Fellow, Tie Liu, welcomed to EAO Hilo

EACOA Fellow Dr Tie Liu is the first EACOA Fellow to come to work at the EAO office in Hilo, Hawaii from KASI.

Tie Liu’s main research interest is high-mass star formation and molecular clouds. Tie is the head of a large consortium undertaking the SCOPE, SCUBA-2 Continuum Observations of Pre-protostellar Evolution, program studying Planck cold clumps at JCMT. This program is now (as of July 2017) complete after 300 hours of SCUBA-2 time over the past year and a half.

Tie is now turning the focus of this study to follow-up observations with JCMT (e.g. POL-2) as well as many other telescopes (e.g., ALMA, SMA, NRO 45-m, KVN, FAST 500m …).

The Staff at EAO are pleased to welcome Tie Liu into the scientific division and hope many more astronomers decide to visit JCMT in the future as long term visitors, to engage directly with JCMT staff.

– 20170724

“Stray Black Holes” discovered in the Galactic Centre

A research team led by Japanese astronomers using data taken with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), have conducted detailed radio spectral observations of molecular gas around the nucleus of our Milky Way Galaxy, Sgr A*.

As a result, the team has discovered two compact molecular clouds that have extremely broad velocity widths at distances of approximately 20 light years from Sgr A*. Despite the fact that these peculiar clouds have large kinetic energies, no energy source has been found there. Thus, the team interprets that each of the clouds is driven by the high-velocity plunge of an isolated (invisible) black hole without a companion star into a giant molecular cloud.  This implies that multiple “stray black holes” are floating around a supermassive black hole lurking at the Galactic center.

Illustration of stray black holes floating around a supermassive black hole at the Galactic center.

1. Important Points

  • The team studied two unusual molecular clouds. These two clouds were discovered in the vicinity of the Galactic nucleus of the Milky Way, Sgr A*.  Their motions and physical properties were studied and their motions were deemed to be abnormal.
  • The origin of each of unusual clouds cannot be explained by an interaction with a supernova. The clouds are also not explained by a bipolar outflow from a protostar. This implies that the origin is likely to be an obscure astrophysical phenomena.
  • As a result of the large kinetic energies observed combined with no a lack of an obvious energy source, the team theorizes that the driving sources may be black holes rapidly plunging into molecular clouds.

2. Research Background

The Galactic nucleus Sgr A* is located at a distance of approximately 26,000 light years from the Earth, and recognized as a supermassive black hole with 4 million solar masses. The origin of the supermassive black hole remains unresolved. In contrast, a stellar mass black hole, which has a mass ranging from about three to several tens of solar masses, is known to be formed by the gravitational collapse of a massive star heavier than 30 solar masses. It is theoretically predicted that several hundred million stellar mass black holes lurk in the Milky Way.

However, the number of black hole candidates currently detected in the Milky Way is only 60. In general, gas and dust drawn by the gravitational force of a black hole constitute an accretion disk around it. After the materials are sufficiently accreted and the accretion disk gets hotter and emits intense electromagnetic waves. Typically stellar mass black holes in the Milky Way have been found by detection of X-ray radiation from their accretion disks. In order for an accretion disk to be continuously shining, a fueling source, i.e. a companion star, must be in the close vicinity of a black hole. However, such black holes (those with close companions) are very rare. Most of back holes are likely to be isolated and inactive. Thus, countless “stray black holes” should be floating in the Milky Way.

3. Research Results

The research team conducted spectral line observations of the Galactic central region within 30 light years of the Galactic nucleus Sgr A* to investigate kinematics and physical properties of molecular gas surrounding the nucleus, using the JCMT. In the observations, the team discovered two unusual molecular clouds (HCN–0.009–0.044 and HCN–0.085–0.094) with diameters of about 3 light years and extremely broad velocity widths wider than 40 km/s (See Figure b below). Each of these unusual clouds appears to stem from a larger cloud. Their motions seem to be different from those of well-known molecular clouds around the nucleus (See Figure a, and c below).

These motions imply enormous kinematic energies (>1047 erg). Such enormous kinetic energy may be produced by an interaction with a supernova explosion or a bipolar outflow form a bright massive protostar. However, no evidence of a supernova or a bright protostar was found toward these peculiar clouds.   The origin is probably “something” other than well-known astrophysical phenomena; inactive stellar mass Black Holes.

The data used to make this discovery (a) Position-velocity diagram along the yellow vertical line in the panel (b). (b) Integral intensity map of the Galactic central region around Sgr A* (shown by a white star) in the hydrogen cyanide (HCN) 354.6 GHz spectral line. The light-blue cross marks indicate the locations of the discovered peculiar compact clouds (HCN–0.009–0.044 and HCN–0.085–0.094). (c) Position-velocity diagram along the yellow horizontal line in the panel (b). (d, e) The spectral lines detected toward the peculiar clouds.

The team proposes that the high kinematic energy results from: “a high-speed compact gravitational source plunging into a molecular cloud and the gas is dragged along by the gravity of the compact source to form a gas stream.”

According this “plunge scenario”, such unusual clouds can be formed in two cases as follows:

  • A massive compact object with a mass larger than about 10 time the mass of our Sun plunges with a high velocity of about 100 km/s into a molecular cloud.
  • A compact object with a mass similar to that of the Sun plunges with a ultra high velocity of about 1000 km/s into a molecular cloud.

In the case 1), the candidate for the plunging object is a massive star or black hole. In the case 2), the candidate is a hypervelocity star which moves so fast that it can escape from the gravity of the Galaxy. However, no hypervelocity star has been found in the Galactic center and the number is theoretically predicted to be much less than that of black holes. Therefore, the driving sources of the two discovered clouds are likely to be massive stars or black holes. In addition, no bright massive stars have been found toward these clouds. Thus, a “stray black hole” floating around the supermassive black hole is the most plausible candidate for each of the driving sources of the two clouds.

4. Research Significance

This work is very meaningful since the possibility that a number of “stray black holes” are floating around a supermassive black hole at the Galactic center was indicated by the observational study for the first time.

The team has already discovered the peculiar molecular cloud in the Galactic disk (Bullet) that may also be driven by a high-velocity plunge of a stray black hole (Yamada et al. 2017, https://www.nao.ac.jp/en/news/science/2017/20170202-aste.html).

These studies which are based on spectral line observations of molecular gas suggest a new method of potentially discovering inactive isolated black holes that are undetected by traditional method such as X-ray observations. The number of black hole candidates is expected to dramatically increase by applying research methods similar to this work.

Recently, by detection of gravitational waves, it has been confirmed that black holes merge and grow. The team has also discovered a candidate for an intermediate mass black hole with a mass of 100 thousand solar masses at a distance of about 200 light years from the Galactic nucleus

(Oka et al. 2017, https://www.nao.ac.jp/en/news/science/2016/20160115-nro.html).

This intermediate mass black hole and stray black holes discovered in this work possibly contribute to growth of the supermassive black hole in future.

Inquiries about the research

Professor Tomoharu Oka
Department of Physics
Keio University Science and Technology
TEL: +81-45-566-1833 FAX: +81-45-566-1833

E-mail: tomo@phys.keio.ac.jp

http://aysheaia.phys.keio.ac.jp/index.html

These observation results were published as Takekawa et al. “Discovery of Two Small High-velocity Compact Clouds in the Central 10 pc of Our Galaxy” in the Astrophysical Journal Letters in July 2017.

The team behind this work are Shunya Takekawa, a Ph.D. student at Keio University, Japan, and Tomoharu Oka, a professor at Keio University.

This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Research Fellow from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (15J04405).

Hawaii Island Inquiries about the research

Dr Harriet Parsons
EAO/JCMT
660 North A’Ohoku Place
Hilo, Hawaii, 96720

E-mail: outreach@eaobservatory.org

 – 2017/07/18

EAO/JCMT at APRIM

Astronomers from the East Asian Observatory/JCMT are in Taipei, Taiwan this week for the Asia Pacific Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (APRIM). If you are there please pop by our booth and say hello!

Maunakea Wonders – Teacher workshop success

For two days at the end of June EAO/JCMT hosted its first “Maunakea Wonders Teacher Workshop” primarily aimed at newly qualified teachers here on the island of Hawai’i. One day was spent learning about the cultural, environmental and astronomical role Maunakea plays combined with a trip to visit the CFHT (Canada France Hawai’i Telescope), and the JCMT. The second day was spent in the classroom discovering what Hawaii more about astronomy on the big island and the resources available to the community, teachers and students in Hawaii.

The workshop was kindly supported by MKAOC/CFHT and the University of Hawai’i Hilo’s School of Education.

First day of the Maunakea Wonders Teacher workshop included a trip to the Canada France Hawaii Telescope and then to JCMT.

Discovering cosmic distances

Discovering Teaching opportunities in Hawaii – with Gemini’s Starlab.

– 20170703

AstroDay 2017

EAO/JCMT staff once again volunteered their time to spend the day connecting with the community at the annual Hilo AstroDay. This year we explored the concept of magnetism and polarization in space.

For more about AstroDay please see:

A summary of the cryogenic work on SCUBA-2 this past winter

SCUBA-2 has been back on the sky for the past month producing excellent data, following both planned engineering down time to work on the instrument cryogenics and unplanned – to fix a vacuum leak.

The end of 2016 was a busy time for the EAO ETIS (Engineering, Technical Information Systems) staff. From the middle of the 2016 we were aware of a change in performance of one of the (two) pulse tube coolers (PTC) that cools the SCUBA-2 inner radiation shields and internal mirrors to below 4K. We were able to continue to use SCUBA-2 without any impact on the quality of the data, while we planned the major task of taking the 3 tonne instrument off the antenna and replacing both of the instrument PTC cold heads with new remote motor models.

The dilution fridge mixture was removed and the warm-up started on October 5th. SCUBA-2 was back on the sky with new PTCs and was operational by November 18th, 1 week ahead of schedule. However, during the subsequent cooldown, the cryostat vacuum was found not to be as good as expected.

Later in December, when we temporarily warmed-up (to 4K) to replace a small pump in the dilution refrigerator (DR) gas handling system – a regular procedure, the poor vacuum became a serious issue. Additional problems with pumps in the GHS and too high a pressure in the DR still prevented cooling below 1K. This is well above the operating temperature of the TES detectors.

The only course was to warm the instrument to ambient temperature and to then carry out extensive leak checking of the cryostat. A leak was found that we could fix. However, on detailed inspection, we discovered that the O-ring between the feedthrough and the top plate of the DR insert was cracked and would fail soon if we did not replace it.

Two weeks of skill and persistence was required to replace this O-ring to enable SCUBA-2 to be yet-again pumped, leak checked and cooled prior to the end of January. With the vacuum leak fixed, the cause of the second issue with the GHS that prevented cooling below 1K became apparent. This issue was caused by a particle filter on the input of the pump. After removing the offending filter SCUBA-2 was operational by February 5th.

The loss of an additional 6 weeks of observing with SCUBA-2 impacted our users. However, by catching the failing O-ring before a total loss of vacuum, we avoided the potential for more serious consequences to the instrument and a bigger disruption of the observing schedule. An extended period of good stable weather in recent weeks has allowed some of the affected programs to makeup for the missed nights.

In addition to the cryogenic work, new improved thermal blocking filters have been installed between the instrument window and the band defining filters for the detector arrays. We are now investigating the change in optical power on the detector arrays, to see if this has modified the stray light environment within the 4K box and improved SCUBA-2’s performance.

Jamie Cookson works on the repair of SCUBA-2.

– 20170407

Blue skies for Venus observations

Over the past two weekends the JCMT has been open and observing during the day. These daytime observations are needed to observe the middle atmosphere (altitude 70-110 km) of Venus.

The aim is to better understand atmospheric physics and chemistry. The way to advance understanding of fundamental atmospheric physics and chemistry in general is to study the atmospheres of individual planets – specifically in this case Venus!

The JCMT is used for this study because sub-millimeter spectroscopy is uniquely powerful for investigations of this altitude range on Venus. JCMT’s location on Maunakea, its ability to safely point arbitrarily close to the sun, and its observation flexibility (capability to modify observing strategies in as little as 5 minutes, during the observations) make it uniquely well-suited to Venus research.

Here is a video of the sky above the EAO office in Hilo – can you spot Venus? If you want to see what the weather is like on Maunakea click here. For a link to the EAO Hilo office weather click here.

-2017/03/28

Electronics Engineer job opening

We are currently recruiting for an Electronic Engineer to join the EAO/JCMT  Engineering Group. This group ensures that the telescopes and associated instruments are at a high level of operational readiness at all times. They apply technical knowledge in support of the testing, modification, maintenance, repair, and upgrading of EAO mechanical, electronic and electrical systems.

CLOSING DATE: March 24, 2017

For more information visit the EAO Jobs homepage.

– 2017/02/24

JCMT 2017 Users Meeting – see you again next year!

The 2017 JCMT Users meeting was held in Nanjing, China. The two day meeting was held on Monday, 13th and Tuesday 14th of February. An additional 1 half-day data reduction workshop was held immediately after the meeting on Wednesday 15th of February. The meeting was well attended and all talks are now available online here. We hope you have a good productive 2017 and hope to see you at our JCMT 2018 Users meeting in South Korea next January.

– 2017/02/21

Call for proposals 17B and Large Programs (II)

The East Asian Observatory is happy to invite PI observing proposals for semester 17B at JCMT (for details see here). Semester 17B runs from 01 August 2017 to 31 January 2018.

In addition the East Asian Observatory is happy to accept proposals for Large Programs – running from 01 August 2017 to 31 January 2019. More details about the Large Programs (II) call can be found here.

You can reach the proposal handling system, Hedwig,  and find complete details of this Call at:

https://proposals.eaobservatory.org/

Any further questions should be directed to our help desk: helpdesk@eaobservatory.org

If this is your first visit to Hedwig, you should go to ‘Log in’ and generate an account. There is a ‘Help’ facility at the upper right corner, and individual Help tags at many other places.

The 17B Call and Large Program (II) call for Proposals closes on the 15th of March 2017.

– 2017/02/13

17B semester Call at the Subaru Telescope is now open

The East Asian Observatory is pleased to partner with the Subaru Telescope to enable astronomers  from an East Asian participant region to have access to Subaru time. The East Asian Observatory proposals are considered by the Subaru scientific panel alongside regular Subaru proposals, with a guaranteed award of time of a total of 3 nights of observing in the semester.

The 17B semester Call at the Subaru Telescope is now open, click here for more details.

– 2017/02/08

Support Astronomer job opening

The EAO/JCMT is currently seeking an astronomer to join its team of support scientists. Duties include: Assists visiting astronomers in obtaining high-quality observational data; provides technical, scientific, and logistical support to astronomers before, during, and after their observing runs, and assists with their data analysis. Performs general and specific support of the telescope operations and/or instruments and their development. Undertakes a program of astronomical research, which may or may not be related to using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT).

CLOSING DATE: February 28, 2017

For more information visit the EAO Jobs homepage.

– 2017/02/02

Announcing the JCMT Large Programs (II)

The East Asian Observatory is pleased to provide an early announcement of the second Call for JCMT Large Programs. This information is being provided ahead of the opening of the Call in order for current and new teams to pursue discussion and planning. Submissions will be accepted from February 15th up until the March 15th deadline. This will coincide with the 17B PI Call.

For more information please visit:
http://www.eaobservatory.org/jcmt/proposals/large-programs-call-ii/

To help cultivate ideas discussions on potential new JCMT Large Programs EAO have provided a wiki for interested JCMT users:
https://www.eao.hawaii.edu/Large-Programs-Call-2017/

Please also be reminded that the 2017 JCMT Users meeting will be held February 13th and 14th in Nanjing, China. For more details on the Users meeting please visit:
http://www.eaobservatory.org/jcmt/science/nanjing2017/

– 2016/11/15

JCMT holds reduction workshop in Shanghai

At the start of October the JCMT held a Data Reduction workshop for JCMT astronomers. The workshop was held at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China. Over 20 astronomers attended with a variety of backgrounds. The material presented at the workshop can be found here. Information on past workshops can be found here. If you are interested in having JCMT staff visit your institution for such an event please contact helpdesk@eaobservatory.org.

Participants at the JCMT reduction workshop, China, October 2016.

Participants at the JCMT reduction workshop, China, October 2016.

– 2016/10/25

Users Meeting – Nanjing 2017

JCMT-UsersMeeting-2017-annoucement

Dear JCMT users

You are invited to attend the second EAO JCMT Users Meeting. This 2017 JCMT Users meeting will be held in Nanjing, China. The two day meeting will be held on Monday, 13th and Tuesday 14th of February. An additional 1 half-day data reduction workshop will be held immediately after the meeting on Wednesday 15th of February.

To register for the 2017 Users Meeting please use the online registration form.

Note: If you cannot access the registration form (which is a Google document), then please use this text form and email to jcmt_um_2017 “at” eaobservatory.org.

Note: All participants coming from outside of mainland China will likely require a visa. Therefore to  request a letter of invitation to attend this meeting please email:  jcmt_um_2017 “at” eaobservatory.org This process can be lengthy. You are encouraged to request this invitation letter and begin the visa application process as soon as possible.

For more information visit: www.eaobservatory.org/jcmt/science/nanjing2017/

– 2016/09/13

JCMT workshop, Shanghai, October 16th 2016

The JCMT would like to announce that the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory will hold 1-day workshop on JCMT data reductions and analysis on Oct. 16 at SHAO in Shanghai. JCMT staff, Dr. Harriet Parsons and Dr. Mark Rawlings, will give these tutorials.  The agenda can be found below.

This workshop is scheduled before JINGLE team meeting in Shanghai (Oct. 17-18) and MALATANG team meeting in Nanjing (Oct. 19-21) as a united conference. We aim to open this tutorial to all interested researchers and students, and high priority will be given to members of JINGLE, MALATANG and other JCMT large programs due to space limitation.  If you are interested to attend, please contact Ting Xiao (xiaoting@shao.ac.cn) as soon as possible to help us get a rough head account.

Agenda for the workshop on Oct. 16:

Morning session:

  • introduction to STARLINK
  • introduction to HARP and RxA3m
  • Heterodyne beginner
  • Heterodyne advanced

Afternoon session:

  • introduction to SCUBA-2
  • SCUBA-2 basic
  • SCUBA-2 advanced

In addition if requested we could cover any of the following (time permitting):

  • Hedwig session – Proposal submission to the JCMT
  • JCMTOT – how to submit JCMT project MSBs
  • POL-2 introduction and basic data reduction in an extended session
  • General JCMT project support for existing users

 

If you are interested in any additional topics listed above, please inform us in the email.

– 2016/09/09

Face-to- face workshop for “SAMPLING-TOP- SCOPE”, December 14-16, Beijing -1 st announcement

The Planck satellite has discovered more than ten thousand Galactic cold clumps, the so-called “Planck Galactic Cold Clumps” (PGCCs). The PGCC catalog, covering the whole sky, hence probes wildly different environments, and represents a real goldmine for investigations of the early phases of star formation. After the successful start of the pioneer survey with the PMO 14-m telescope, we are conducting a joint survey (“SAMPLING-TOP- SCOPE”) towards 1000-2000 PGCCs with the SMT 10-m, TRAO 14-m, and JCMT 15-m telescopes. “SAMPLING” (SMT “All-sky” Mapping of PLanck Interstellar Nebulae in the Galaxy) is an ESO public survey inJ=2-1 12CO/13CO emission using the SMT 10-m telescope. “TOP” (TRAO Observations of Planck cold clumps) aims at an unbiased J=1-0 12CO/13CO survey of 2000 Planck Galactic Cold Clumps with the Taeduk Radio Astronomy Observatory 14-meter telescope. “SCOPE” (SCUBA-2 Continuum Observations of Pre-protostellar Evolution) is a legacy survey using SCUBA-2 at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) of the East Asia Observatory (EAO) to survey 1000 Planck galactic cold clumps at 850 micron. We are also actively developing follow-up observations towards the SCUBA-2 cores detected in “SCOPE” with other ground-based telescopes (e.g. KVN 21-m, NRO 45-m, Effelsberg 100-m, Arecibo 300-m, SMA, and ALMA). Through these observations, we will study how dense cores form and how star formation varies as a function of environment, the universality of filaments in the cold ISM and their roles in generating dense cores, the existence of a density threshold for dense core formation, how dust properties change in different environments, and how dust properties affect the chemical evolution of dense cores.

To promote collaborations among team members on using the survey data for science, we will hold a face-to-face workshop on Dec. 14-16 at Peking University, Beijing, China. To indicate your interest in attending the workshop, please sign your name on the following doodle page:

http://doodle.com/poll/443gppgf4mc4y5rc

More details of the workshop can be found on our wiki page:

https://topscope.asiaa.sinica.edu.tw/tiki/tiki-index.php

Program (preliminary)

Dec 14: registration and reception
Dec 15: talks and discussions
Dec 16: talks and discussions

SOC: Tie Liu; Mark Thompson; Sheng-Yuan Liu; Gary Fuller; Ken Tatematsu; Yuefang Wu; Di Li; James di Francesco; Kee-Tae Kim; Ke Wang; Isabelle Ristorcelli; Mika Juvela

LOC: Jie Yao; Chao Zhang; Shuxian Li; Huawei Zhang; Yuefang Wu (ywu@pku.edu.cn); Tie Liu (liutiepku@gmail.com)

– 2016/07/21

JINGLE meeting Oct. 16-18 in Shanghai – 1st announcement

The JINGLE Team meeting and JCMT Data Reduction & Analysis Workshop will be held on Oct. 16-18 in Shanghai at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, China.

JINGLE (The JCMT dust and gas In Nearby Galaxies Legacy Exploration) began in Dec. 2015, and the overall program completion is about 1/4.  Team members are encouraged to join the team meeting on Oct. 17-18 to discuss the survey status and plan, data reduction and evaluation, data analysis, and most importantly the scientific projects based on survey data.  The JINGLE meeting and MALATANG meeting are scheduled in one week for a united conference focusing on two main themes: 1) cold gas and dust in large sample of galaxies and 2) dense gas and gas/dust in the nearest 20+ brightest infrared galaxies.

Before the JINGLE team meeting, we will have 1-day tutorial on JCMT data reductions and analysis provided by JCMT staff.  We will open this tutorial to all interested researchers and students.  But due to space limitation, high priority will be given to JINGLE members and members of JCMT large programs .

If you need an invitation letter for VISA application, please contact the LOC as soon as possible!

SOC:  Amelie Saintonge, Chris Wilson, Ting Xiao, Cheng Li, Yu Gao, Lihwai Lin, Ho Seong Hwang, Tomoka Tosaki

LOC:  Ting Xiao (xiaoting@shao.ac.cn), Yang Gao (gaoyang@shao.ac.cn), Yang Yang (yyang@shao.ac.cn)

Please visit the wiki page and add your name there if you plan to attend the meeting:

https://www.eao.hawaii.edu/JINGLE/Fall2016MeetingPage

– 2016/07/14

MALATANG meeting Oct. 19-21 in Nanjing – 1st announcement

The coordinators for the MALATANG Large Program invite you to attend thier first face-to-face  team meeting on Oct. 19-21 in Nanjing.   Team members are highly encouraged to join the meeting, to discuss survey status, data reduction and evaluation, data analysis, future observations, and all the potential scientific projects.

To indicate your interest in attending the meeting please add your name to the following doodle page:

http://doodle.com/poll/duudphqvdiidq668

If you need an invitation letter for VISA application, please contact the LOC as soon as possible!

Note that prior to the MALATANG meeting, the JINGLE meeting will be held on Oct 16-18 in Shanghai, including a JCMT tutorial on Oct 16. Further details regarding the JINGLE meeting will follow soon.

MALATANG and JINGLE share some common/related subjects and overlap members, so you may consider attending both!

MALATANG logo

Agenda (preliminary)

Oct 19: reception

Oct 20: MALATANG discussion 1

Oct 21: MALATANG discussion 2

SOC

Yu Gao

Thomas Greve

Zhiyu Zhang

LOC

Hongjun Ma (hjma at pmo.ac.cn)

Xuejian Jiang (xjjiang at pmo.ac.cn)

Qinghua Tan (qhtan at pmo.ac.cn)

Traffic info

It only takes less than 2 hours from Shanghai to Nanjing by high speed trains

train schedule: http://english.ctrip.com/trains/schedule/shanghai/

– 2016/07/07

JCMT announces new Deputy Director – Jessica Dempsey

We welcoming Jessica Dempsey to the role of Deputy Director of the JCMT. In addition to this we are proud to announce she has been also just been recognized with a Women Who Mean Business award for “Women to Watch”.

Jess-wwmb1

Jessica Dempsey receiving the award for “Women to Watch” March 2016.

Jess-WWMB

Jessica Dempsey winner of “Women to Watch” 2016.

– 2016/03/01

Call for Proposals 16A

The East Asian Observatory is happy to invite PI observing proposals for semester 16A at JCMT (for details see here).

Semester 16A runs from 01 February 2016 to 31 July 2016. We are launching this Call through a new proposal handling system: Hedwig. You can reach Hedwig and find complete details of this Call at:

https://proposals.eaobservatory.org/

At your first visit, you should go to ‘Log in’ and generate an account. We hope you will find Hedwig easy to use: there is a ‘Help’ facility at the upper right corner, and individual Help tags at many places on the proposal pages.

The 16A Call for Proposals closes on the 22nd of September, 2015.

In addition, it should be noted that we will embark on survey observing in the 16A semester – and as such, PI time is more limited than the current semester, however we still strongly encourage PI submissions as at least 800 hours of time will be available to EAO and partner region investigators. Some alterations have also been made to the PI eligibility for Canada – please see the Call for details.

New Horizons for the JCMT with the East Asian Observatory: Latest Science from the JCMT

2015 IAU Splinter Session

August 6th 6pm-8pm  

Room 312 Hawaii Convention Center


The East Asian Observatory has forged a new path for the JCMT following the successful transfer of operation to EAO in March 2015. Operations immediately resumed with an EAO Pilot Science semester initiated in late March, taking successful science with JCMT’s signature instruments, and recommencing commissioning of the additional instrument elements (Pol-2 and FTS-2) for SCUBA-2. In this special session, we will present the latest results from the JCMT Legacy Surveys, completed in early 2015. We will also show some of the recent results from Pilot Science, and discuss the plans EAO and its partners have for continuing to keep the JCMT at the cutting edge of sub-millimeter science.

Organizer: Jessica Dempsey


 6:00pm: Welcome and introduction (Paul Ho)

JCMT Legacy Science: New Insights
6:10pm: The Cosmology Legacy Survey (Jim Geach)
6:25pm: Current and future directions in star formation research with the JCMT (Derek Ward-Thompson)
6:40pm: The Nearby Galaxies Survey (Christine Wilson)
6:55pm: The JCMT Legacy Archive (Sarah Graves)

EAO Pilot Science
7:05pm: Highlights from Taiwan (Sheng-Yuan Liu)
7:15pm: Highlights from China (Yu Gao)
7:25pm: Highlights from Korea (Woojin Kwon)

Instrument Directions for JCMT:
7:35pm – 8:00pm: Panel discussion and question and answer session on future instrument upgrades and new instrument concepts.


First Day of Operations

It is with great enthusiasm that the East Asian Observatory (EAO) announces its first day of operations of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT). The JCMT is the largest astronomical telescope in the world designed to operate in the sub-millimetre wavelength region of the spectrum. EAO is now in charge of JCMT operations in partnership with the UK and Canadian research communities.

Paul Ho the Director General of the East Asian Observatory said “It is a great opportunity for the East Asian Observatory to take over the operation of JCMT which is an excellent facility with extremely powerful instrumentation. Many of our astronomers in East Asia have long been involved in pursuing the most important problems in astronomy by utilizing the amazing telescopes on top of Mauna Kea. It is a great privilege for us to be able to work at the best site for ground based astronomy in the Northern Hemisphere. For all of us at the JCMT, we look forward to an exciting future in continuing to deliver frontier science to our communities.”

EAO would like to thank the people of Hawaii for allowing our astronomers to work on top of one of the most beautiful places on earth.

JCMT_Transfer_small_038

The JCMT handover signing: Back row left to right: Jun Yan, Director, National Astronomical Observatories of China, Dr Guenther Hasinger, Director, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, Professor Gary Davis, former Director of the Joint Astronomy Centre. Front row left to right: Dr Paul Ho, Director General, East Asian Observatory, Professor Matt Platz , Assistant Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Hawaii, Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive STFC. (Credit: Hollyn Johnson/Professor Gary Davis/STFC)

As a memento of this transfer Will Montgomerie, an operator at the JCMT, has released this beautiful night sky time-lapse montage featuring the Telescope:

www.vimeo.com/williammontgomerie/jcmtstarlapse

The Science and Technology Facilities Council of the UK have also issued their own statement about this occasion. The statement can be found here.