Categorized | Education, Sci-Tech

A Tale of Two Telescopes: Astronomy With Invisible Light


Lecture by Professor Gary Davis, Director Joint Astronomy Centre, on July 16 and 18 at 7 p.m.

Professor Gary Davis

Professor Gary Davis

Hawai‘i Island, HI – “A Tale of Two Telescopes: Astronomy with Invisible Light” is the topic of a free public lecture on Thursday, July 16 in Waimea and Saturday, July 18 in Hilo. The speaker will be Professor Gary Davis, the director of the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hilo.

Professor Davis will discuss the challenging work of two Maunakea observatories: the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), which saw first light in 1979 and 1987, respectively. Both telescopes observe the heavens using forms of light which cannot be seen with the naked eye.

“I will describe why we do this challenging type of astronomy, why we came to Maunakea to do it, and what we have achieved in the last two decades,” says Professor Davis. He will also talk about plans for the future for both telescopes, and reflect on the significance of the science of astronomy as a valuable approach to understanding the world we live in.

Gary Davis has more than two decades of experience in the development and use of instrumentation for astronomy, both from the ground and from space, from the infrared to the radio wavelengths of the light spectrum. He had been an observer at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope for 12 years before being named its director in 2002. At that time, Professor Davis was also named director for the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, as well as the Joint Astronomy Centre, which operates both telescopes on behalf of the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Professor Davis is a specialist in the study of planetary systems, focusing on the measure of the composition of planetary atmospheres using infrared and submillimeter molecular spectroscopy. He graduated from McMaster University and the University of Toronto in Canada and subsequently received his doctorate in physics from the University of Oxford in the UK. He did postdoctoral research at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London. From 1991 to 2007 he was professor of physics and engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

The lecture in Waimea on July 16, 7 p.m. takes 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 located on the summit of Maunakea. The two telescopes feature a suite of advanced instrumentation including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and a world-leading laser-guide-star adaptive optics system. The Observatory is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA. For information please call 808.885.7887 or visit

The lecture in Hilo on July 18, 7 p.m. takes place in ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s 120-seat planetarium. In addition to hearing the lecture, guests may also choose to dine before hand at ‘Imiloa’s Sky Garden Restaurant which will be open for dinner service from 5 pm to 8 pm. For dinner reservations, call the restaurant directly at (808) 935-8888. Opened in 2006, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center celebrates both Hawaiian culture and Maunakea astronomy. Through its exhibits and program, ‘Imiloa strives to share inspiring examples of science and culture together advancing knowledge, understanding and opportunity. The Center is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH-Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, go to or call (808) 969-9700 for recorded information, or (808) 969-9703.

The Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC) operates two telescopes on Maunakea on the Big Island of Hawai`i: UKIRT and JCMT. With a 3.8m diameter mirror UKIRT is the largest telescope in the world dedicated exclusively to observations in the infrared. The 15m diameter dish of JCMT makes it the largest single-dish submillimeter telescope in the world. The JAC operates UKIRT and JCMT on behalf of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). For JCMT JAC also receives contributions from the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). JAC has 60 local and international staff. Go to for more information on JAC, UKIRT, and JCMT.

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