Monday, April 26, 1999

Isle observatories
will be able to
share findings

Grants to boost internet speed
will enable the sharing of
Mauna Kea and UH-Hilo

By Star-Bulletin staff


Greatly increased Internet speed is planned under two grants to enable people around the world to share findings and programs of Mauna Kea observatories and the University of Hawaii-Hilo, officials announced.

The Gemini Observatory received a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant to expand the Internet connection speed between its Mauna Kea facility and Hilo headquarters in University Park.

All of the Big Island observatories and UH-Hilo will share the benefits because of another $350,000 foundation grant to UH Information Technology Services to upgrade its Internet facilities.

The data rate for Mauna Kea observatories will be increased from 1.5 to 6 megabits per second.

Gemini's funding will provide a further increase to 45 megabits per second and provide enough capacity to meet Mauna Kea's anticipated needs for several years, Gemini officials said.

The upgrades are expected to be completed late this year.

Robert McLaren, UH Institute for Astronomy interim director, said, "With ever larger and more sophisticated cameras and instruments showing up on Mauna Kea telescopes, such as Gemini, the need for increased bandwidth has reached a critical point.

"In one stroke, this innovative solution has solved Mauna Kea's data rate problems for well into the next decade."

Jim Kennedy, Gemini operations manger, said by pooling efforts and money, Gemini and the UH are increasing the Internet speed of the Big Island observatories and UH-Hilo by a factor of 30.

The increased speed will allow Gemini and other telescopes to share their findings with the public around the world.

"Aside from increasing faculty and student interactions with the science activities of the observatories, the increased bandwidth will open new doors for things like our distant-learning program," said Bill Chen, UH Hilo director of distant learning.

Gemini outreach efforts on the Web now include a virtual tour of the observatory, and will expand to include live Webcasts to museums, planetariums and classrooms once scientific operations begin. The Gemini Web address is:

The Gemini Observatory, a $184 million multinational project, will provide two nearly identical 21-foot telescopes that can explore the sky in optical and infrared light. One is located on Mauna Kea (Gemini North) and the other on Cerro Pachon in northern Chile (Gemini South).

The Mauna Kea telescope is expected to start scientific operations by mid-2000 and the Chile telescope about a year later.

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