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Dark sky, new science frontiers explored at SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation

01 July 2010

SAN DIEGO, California, USA -- More than 2,000 new papers on the most recent advances in the field were presented this week at SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation in San Diego. The approximately 2,000 members of the international astronomical instrumentation community who gathered in at the Town and Country Resort heard presentations ranging from a preview of giant, game-changing telescopes soon to be in operation, to a talk on the "unknowns and unknown unknowns" in the study of dark sky and dark matter, and much more.

The week's highlights included 11 plenary talks, panel discussions, a well-attended exhibition featuring 71 companies, tours of nearby Palomar Observatory, and symposium-wide and student networking events. Symposium Chairs were Masanori Iye, Japan National Astronomical Observatory, and Douglas Simons, Gemini Observatory.

Colin Cunningham, a past Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation Symposium Chair, was presented as a new SPIE Fellow at the Thursday morning plenary session.

Conference proceedings papers will be published individually in the SPIE Digital Library as soon as approved after the meeting, and also in collected print and digital volumes and collections.

Among the week's activities:

Ralph James, Jerry Nelson, Douglas Simons, and Alan Moorwood

From left, SPIE President Ralph James, enjoys a reception with banquet keynote speaker Jerry Nelson (2010 Kavli Prize winner), Symposium Chair Douglas Simons, and Alan Moorwood.

Tony Tyson and Yasushi Suto

Monday morning plenary speakers were J. Anthony Tyson (left; Univ. of California, Davis) on optical synoptic survey telescopes and Yasushi Suto (Univ. of Tokyo) on "Unknowns and unknown unknowns: from dark sky to dark matter and dark energy."

Ewine van Dishoeck and Mark Casali

Ewine van Dishoeck (Leiden Observatory and Max Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik), pictured with Symposium Cochair Mark Casali (European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere), gave a plenary talk reporting on the ALMA project under construction in Chile, and the impact the increased sensitivity and spatial resolution of its instruments will have on virtually all areas of astronomy.

Mark McCaughrean

Mark McCaughrean (European Space Agency/ESTEC) gave a plenary talk on robotic exploration and other ESA science programs.

Plenary audience

Overflow audiences filled the plenary rooms throughout the week.

Kathryn Flanagan, winner, winner, Ralph James

Symposium Cochair Kathryn Flanagan (far left; Space Telescope Science Institute) and SPIE President Ralph James (far right) congratulated scholarship winners Nicole Lingner (California Institute of Technology) and Derek Kopon (Univ. of Arizona).

Student Lunch with Experts

Students packed the banquet room for a chance to meet informally over lunch with experts who offered advice and ideas for career advancement.

student and Ralph James

Rachel Rampy (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) and SPIE President Ralph James were among those at the Student Lunch with Experts.

Ralph and Marie James with Charles Townes

From left, SPIE President Ralph James and his wife, Marie James, talk with Nobel Laureate Charles Townes during the symposium reception.

Jerry Nelson slide 1
Above and following: In his banquet keynote talk at Balboa Park on "Four Hundred Years through the Eye of the Telescope," Jerry Nelson (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) previewed the giant telescopes that he said will advance capability along a sort of Moore's Law for telescopes.

Jerry Nelson slide 2 

Jerry Nelson slide 3

Saku Tsuneta, Hinode Science Center

Thursday morning plenary speaker Saku Tsuneta (Hinode Science Center, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) explained research including studies on solar cycles and the impact of solar activity on weather. The open-data Hinode mission studies the sun with a solar optical telescope and an X-ray telescope, and was launched in 2006. Data suggests that the current solar cycle looks to be the longest in 200 years, and that we currently are in the quiet, or dark, portion of the cycle.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants, and other education programs around the world.

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