By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Robert A. McLaren is being praised for his work as an
associate director for the Mauna Kea observatory and
interim director of the Institute for Astronomy.

Scramble for UH
astronomy plum

But politics and looming problems
also make it forbidden fruit

By Helen Altonn

WANTED: Director for tough University of Hawaii job overseeing world-renowned astronomy observing sites and programs, dealing with UH regents, politicians and foreign representatives. Salary to be negotiated.

Advertising for an Institute for Astronomy director, formerly Donald N.B. Hall, has begun.

Astronomer George H. Herbig, search committee chairman, expects a lot of applicants because it's "one of the premier astronomical plums in the world."

But it's also "a forbidding ... enormously complex" job, he said, with "lots of debate on how to separate the administrative and managerial talents from astronomical research talents and the reputation involved."

"It's an awful job," said astronomer James Heasley. "The politics one has to deal with in terms of the Legislature and Board of Regents are very demanding. We need somebody who can deal with those interactions ... "

Maui's clamor for more astronomy activity on Haleakala after watching the Big Island's multimillion-dollar observatory development on Mauna Kea was believed to be a factor in Hall's reassignment to a faculty position July 1.

Now, Big Island leaders are seeking transfer of the Institute for Astronomy from Manoa to UH-Hilo.

A 35,000-square-foot facility will be built in the next year in the UH-Hilo Research and Technology Park, and many astronomy functions will move there.

But Hilo regent Stanley Roehrig says, "I want the whole shebang over here, period."

This could make it even more difficult to find a director, astronomers say. "If the future of the institute is uncertain, complications like that could knock the applicant pool down," Heasley said.

UH President Kenneth P. Mortimer removed Hall after 13 years as institute director and controversy over his management. He was given a year's leave, starting Jan. 1, at his director's salary of $130,000; then an "equitable" faculty salary will be determined.

Robert A. McLaren, associate director for Mauna Kea and interim institute director until June 30, 1998, is getting praise.

"He is very honest, straightforward, conscientious and hard-working," Herbig said. "We're very pleased.

McLaren, who says he's better suited for associate director because he's "more technically inclined," said he doesn't intend to apply for the permanent position -- that it's an opportunity "to get somebody new, from the outside, maybe with new ideas."

Applications for the director's position will close March 2.

The advertisement says the director is responsible for the institute's research program, operation of telescope facilities on Mauna Kea and Haleakala and liaison with and support of national and international groups observing on the mountains.

The director provides leadership regarding use of the mountains for astronomy and interacts with the media and environmental groups on related issues. He or she also represents the university in discussions with astronomy groups and presents testimony to legislative committees.

One of the testiest problems facing the new director will be the proposed move of the institute to the Big Island.

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
Existing telescopes on the Big Island's Mauna Kea
likely will be refurbished in the next 10 years.

Mortimer said in October that UH "is committed to the concept" of shifting the institute in the next 10 years. However, he said it would be done "in full consultation with faculty and staff" at both campuses. And it is controversial.

Heasley says: "You don't take one of your primary research institutes out of your research campus and move it to your liberal arts campus. The whole notion flies in the face of both academic plans of Manoa and Hilo."

McLaren said some scientists and support services people working on Mauna Kea are based in Hilo now and other functions and staff will be relocated when the facility is completed in the research park.

As for relocating the entire institute, McLaren said it's a mistake to think activities "should be all here or all there."

He said the question should be, "What's the right distribution?"

A significant part of the instrumentation program and people working daily on the mountain and interacting with other astronomy groups could be in Hilo, he said.

But McLaren said the astronomy program needs a "significant presence" in Manoa for undergraduate and graduate programs. "We teach 1,200 students a year. Who's going to do that? All or nothing is the wrong way to look at it ... It's a much better situation if we can offer potential faculty two campuses."

Roehrig said he knows the institute's transfer to Hilo can't happen quickly and he doesn't want to disrupt the quality of the program. But he said he wants the Big Island to have "the best astronomy program in the world," particularly when it has the best land-based viewing site.

UH-Hilo is developing a four-year undergraduate astronomy program, and teachers are needed for those courses, he said, suggesting joint appointments for professors at Manoa and Hilo.

David Ramos, Board of Regents chairman from the Big Island's Waimea area, said graduate programs must continue at Manoa.

"But I think we all (the president and regents) are generally in favor of moving it (the institute)."

Astronomer Barry LaBonte said that if the state's goal is to have high-tech programs and technically skilled jobs, the UH faculty should be wherever they're most effective. That doesn't necessarily mean moving to a neighbor island, he said.

What astronomer sees
in the next 10 years here

By Helen Altonn

Activity on Mauna Kea in the next decade is likely to be upgrading older facilities.

Maui's Haleakala, noted for solar observations, will get some action in nighttime astronomy.

Those are forecasts of Robert McLaren, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy interim director and associate director for Mauna Kea.

Some of the Mauna Kea telescopes are about 20 years old, McLaren said, and dramatic advances have occurred in technology and telescope construction.

Although the Canada-France-Hawaii 88-inch telescope is a good instrument, he said, the newer Keck, Subaru and Gemini telescopes are bigger, more powerful and more sophisticated.

It's unlikely that the 10 countries represented on Mauna Kea will be able to build new things in the next decade and still operate old things, he said. So they probably will opt for refurbishing existing facilities, he said.

The Canada-France-Hawaii group, for example, has begun looking into whether it could retain part of its base structure and build a modern telescope with a bigger aperture on top of it, he said. The big drawback is it would be out of use for up to three years.

McLaren said the last developments under way on Mauna Kea are Subaru, Japan's National Large Telescope, and the international Gemini, both 8-meter or 315-inch telescopes under construction.

Six antennas, each about 20 feet across, also are being made on the mainland for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's $40 million submillimeter array telescope. They will begin arriving next year on Mauna Kea, and the telescope will be completed in 1999.

The only other thing pending, he said, is a Keck Observatory proposal to put four 2-meter (88-inch) telescopes next to its two 10-meter (394-inch) telescopes.

Other developments, McLaren said, include:

A trend toward remote astronomy observations.

About 75 percent of Keck observers work from their Waimea base, and more telescopes, including Subaru and Gemini, plan remote operations.

Development of instruments for next-generation telescopes in the institute's Manoa shops: an infrared camera for Gemini, spectrographs for the Subaru and Air Force telescopes, and large charge-coupled-device mosaics for imaging instruments for telescopes.

Development of a master plan for the 18-acre Haleakala science reserve with options for night astronomy. The University of Tokyo plans a 2-meter telescope there called MAGNUM. It would be the first academic nighttime telescope on Haleakala, although UH astronomers also will be able to use the Air Force's new 3.67-meter telescope, known as the Advanced Electro-Optical System.

McLaren said two faculty members, including a scientific leader, will be hired in the next year or so for activity at the UH Mees Solar Observatory on Haleakala.

But, he said, "as long as the (television) antennas are there, the current level of interference is a very severe impediment to astronomy development."

The institute is trying to work out an arrangement with the state to move them, but many different groups are involved, he said.

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