Categorized | Sci-Tech

Simons talks range ‘From Galileo to Gemini’


Since May 2006, Dr. Doug Simons has been the director of the Frederick C. Gillett Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea, but his interest in astronomy and Hawaii go back more than two decades – a period during which major new developments in astronomy instrumentation have resulted in breakthrough discoveries.

To provide some historical perspective, Simons will offer two talks, April 16 in Waimea and April 18 in Hilo, taking his audiences back 400 years to when Galileo first used two small pieces of glass to observe the heavens. 

“It is amazing when you look at where we have gone over the past 400 years, today the observatories here in Hawaii really represent the culmination of what Galileo started with his first simple telescope,” Simons said.

Simon’s “From Galileo to Gemini” talk is the latest in a year-long Mauna Kea lecture series to commemorate the International Year of Astronomy, a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, with events happening in 135 countries.

The free presentation will be Thursday, April 16, at the W. M. Keck Observatory’s Hualalai Learning Theater in Waimea, and Saturday, April 18, at Imiloa Astronomy Center’s planetarium in Hilo. Both programs begin at 7 p.m. and space is limited to first-come, first served.

The Italian scientist Galileo is credited with taking what were glasses for magnification and uses such as spyglasses or opera glasses and turning them to the heavens. 

In 1609 he was able to see the four moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and the craters on the moon and even sunspots. This development dramatically changed the course of astronomy. 

Simons starts from this historic moment through the many new and exciting discoveries since then, and will focus on the remarkable discoveries of new planets and other amazing objects in the universe, many of which were revealed from Mauna Kea.

Just this year, Gemini Observatory has announced the disappearance of two supernovae stars, reported on a freaky cosmic dwarf pair and discovery of a galactic bulge. It is one of the largest telescopes in the world.

The Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea is the “twin” to Gemini South on the nearly 9,000 foot elevation Chilean Andres Mountain called Cerro Pachón. 

Both were built and are operated under a partnership of seven countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil and Argentina. The observatory features twin eight-meter optical/infrared telescopes, and are designed to take advantage of the latest technologies to access the entire sky. 

Gemini North on Mauna Kea began operations in June 1999. 

The Mauna Kea 2009 lecture series is a free monthly lecture hosted by Imiloa Astronomy Center and W. M. Keck Observatory to introduce Hawaii astronomy and the latest research being done by the 13 observatories located on Mauna Kea.

The programs in Hilo take place in Imiloa Astronomy Center’s 120-seat planetarium on the third Saturday of each month during 2009. The center is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH-Hilo Science and Technology Park. 

The programs in Waimea take place at the W. M. Keck Observatory headquarters in the Hualalai Learning Theater at 65-1120 Mamalahoa Highway. Keck Observatory operates twin 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea. 

— Find out more:

Gemini Observatory: 

Keck Observatory:

Imiloa Astronomy Center:, 969-9700, or 969-9703

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