Professor Iye Receives 2010 Toray Science and Technology Prize
June 6, 2011
Dr. Masanori Iye, the director of the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) Project Office of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) as well as a faculty member of the Subaru Telescope and the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division of NAOJ, was awarded the 2010 Toray Science and Technology Prize for his excellence in leading cutting-edge research in astronomy. Based on recommendations by leading scientific societies, the Toray Science Foundation gives this award to two distinguished scientists each year in the entire science and technology field.
Dr. Iye says that the prize medal he received is "really heavy." Perhaps its weight reflects Dr. Iye's years of work in research and development. Dr. Iye noted, "This prize is a result not only of my own efforts but also of those of our research team." The prize recognizes two areas of Dr. Iye's contributions: 1) observations of the early universe and 2) development of a laser guide star adaptive optics system.
Dr. Iye's observations of the early universe stretch back to the formation of our universe 13.7 billion years ago and try to solve the mystery of the Big Bang. Using the Subaru Prime Focus Camera (Suprime-Cam) mounted on the Subaru Telescope, he discovered many galaxies in the ancient universe. For several years, one of the galaxies he discovered, IOK-1, held the record as the furthest known object in our universe. IOK-1, which stands for the observers' names Iye, Ota, and Kashikawa, is located 12.88 billion light years away and shows that the universe was still opaque 12.88 billion years ago.
Dr. Iye's achievement in developing the laser guide star adaptive optics system of the Subaru Telescope took place over a ten-year period with the input of many contributors. The system is now ready for commissioned use. An adaptive optics system sharpens the stellar image by compensating for distortion caused by turbulence in the atmosphere above the telescope. Dr. Iye's team made the Subaru Telescope's first generation adaptive optics system, a 36 - element adaptive optics module, as well as the current second-generation adaptive optics system with 188 - elements, which continues to reveal stunning views of stars and galaxies. The team is still trying to improve stellar images by utilizing laser guide star technology, which allows observers to use a laser to create an artificial star as a reference point for the adaptive optics. Using this technology allows observers to investigate isolated objects or objects deeply embedded in dark clouds for which a nearby bright guide star is not available.
Although news of the Toray Science and Technology Prize came in 2010, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in eastern Japan delayed the awards ceremony until May 2011. Among the twenty-nine researchers recommended, only two outstanding researchers were recognized. This is the third time that a nominee from the Astronomical Society of Japan has received the Toray Science and Technology award. Past awards recognized three Japanese scientists for astronomy research, two of whom were recommended by the Astronomical Society of Japan and one by the Physics Society of Japan. (See note)
Previous winners of the Toray Science and Technology Prize nominated by the Astronomical Society of Japan or the Physics Society of Japan were:
1) Professor Minoru Oda (University of Tokyo) for the development of a X-ray observation device and the study of X-ray astronomy. Recommended by the Physics Society of Japan. Received the 11th Toray Science and Technology Prize in 1970.
2) Professor Yasuo Tanaka (Institute of Space and Astronautical Science) for the study of X-ray astronomy with a scientific satellite. Recommended by the Astronomical Society of Japan. Received the 30th Toray Science and Technology Prize in 1989.
3) Professor Shuji Saito (Institute for Molecular Science Department of Okazaki National Research Institutes) for the spectroscopic study of interstellar molecules. Recommended by the Astronomical Society of Japan. Received the 33rd Toray Science and Technology Prize in 1992.