Categorized | Sci-Tech

Subaru scientist concludes Imiloa series


Imiloa Astronomy Center concludes its 2008 Maunakea Skies program at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27 with a talk by Dr. Saeko Hayashi, of Subaru Telescope.

Her talk titled “Hoshi wa Subaru,” or “Japanese Star Tales” will provide insight into Japanese constellations and calendars which guided farmers, fishermen and even mountain workers in old Japan, early Japanese astronomical record keeping, and colorful star names.

Dr. Richard Crowe, UH-Hilo professor of physics and astronomy, and one of Imiloa’s planetarium hosts for the monthly Maunakea Skies programs, will first take the audience on an observational tour of the Hawaiian night time sky for January.

“Traditionally, the Japanese kept track of heavenly bodies and updated calendars based on astronomical knowledge from China,” Hayashi said. “Our records of astronomical phenomena date back to the first official publication of the Kojiki in the 8th century. We can say that Subaru Telescope’s astronomical traditions go back to that period in ancient Japan.”

Hayashi said Japanese fishermen, farmers, and even mountain workers had names for all of the celestial bodies, and watched the constellations to determine the best times of the year for the best possible harvest or catch, as well as to track the typhoon season and other wild climatic events.

One simple system of naming stars was by color contrast. For example, the two brightest stars in Gemini were called “Kinboshi” and “Ginboshi” (golden star and silver star), and “Aoboshi” (blue star) for the star Sirius, she said.

Japanese star names were also derived from geometrical figures, tools in daily use, and after legendary figures.

The Subaru Telescope is named for a star constellation Japanese call “Subaru,” an ancient Japanese word which means, “get together, or come together.” Most know this star constellation as Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters. In Hawaii, this star cluster is called Makalii.

Born and raised in northern part of Japan, Hayashi was inspired by the Apollo mission, and became interested in physics and astronomy, “not a typical subject for a girl from the countryside of Japan.”

Currently the manager of public information and outreach for Subaru Telescope, Hayashi has had a long association with Subaru Telescope and with Hawaii. She first moved to Hawaii shortly after receiving her Ph.D in 1987, arriving on the Big Island just in time for the dedication of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the largest astronomical telescope in the world designed specifically to operate in the submillimeter wavelength region of the spectrum. Hayashi worked on the panel alignment of the antennas using holography technique.

She returned to Japan to work on the early design phase of what was then called JNLT (Japan National Large Telescope), which would later become the Subaru Telescope project.

Her work included conceptual design of the base facility, the fundamental configuration of the telescope optics, and the coating and the cleaning of large mirrors. She later moved to the science operations division, doing “hands-on” work with the day crews.

The Maunakea Skies planetarium program is held on the third Saturday of each month. The program is presented in Imiloa Astronomy Center’s 120-seat planetarium at 7 p.m.

Admission is $5 for Imiloa members and $8 for non-members. Pre-purchase tickets at the Imiloa front desk or purchase by phone, using Visa or MasterCard, by calling 969-9703. Sky Garden Restaurant will be open 5-8 p.m. for dinner service.

— Find out more:
Imiloa Astronomy Center: 969-9700,

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