Davis brings board of Hawaii telescope to meet at U of S
Less than two years into his leave of absence to serve as director of the world’s most successful Earth-based astronomical observatory, U of S Physics Prof. Gary Davis brought his telescope’s board of directors to campus for their latest biennial meeting.
Davis is director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), which sits high atop the 14,000-ft. Mauna Kea mountain on the big island of Hawaii. His nine-member board along with three staff, three observers and board secretary met at the U of S May 17 and 18 for their regular business session. The telescope is a joint Canada-UK-Netherlands operation.
“JCMT is the world’s premier telescope for ground-based astronomical observations at sub-millimetre wavelengths,” Davis says. In fact, “with it, we have discovered an entirely new class of galaxy, formed at a very early stage in the universe, about 12 billion years ago.” The universe itself is 13.7 billion years old. He hopes the detection of Earth-sized planets in other solar systems will occur within the next five years.
Davis says JCMT “is the most successful astronomical instrument ever built, except for the Hubble space telescope” – judged by the number of papers and citations it generates.
He says demand for time on the telescope, which operates 365 nights a year, far exceeds supply. Canadian demand for it is high, although Davis says he’s the only user from the U of S.
But it’s a constant technological struggle to keep JCMT at the forefront of science. A $25-million upgrade is planned for completion by 2006. It has a staff of 69 people.
Davis says his board had a successful meeting at the U of S, discussing financial and facility details. He is based in tropical, sea-level Hilo, Hawaii – a far cry from the often-frigid Saskatoon.