Subaru Staff -Part 9-

January 26, 2005

We will introduce support astronomers (current as of date).


Support Astronomer for HDS
Akito Tajitsu

From Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, well known for its Japanese tea
Hobbies: Drawing illustrations and comic strips and programming computer games

- What kind of work did you do before coming to Subaru? Can you summarize your life in a paragraph?

I live in Shizuoka until I graduated from high school, and went to Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. I got my doctoral degree in astronomy there. My first job after graduating was at Kiso Observatory, which belongs to the University of Tokyo. After that I worked on high dispersion spectroscopy using an instrument called HIDES at the Okayama Observatory. This experience helped me get a job to do test observing with HDS.

- Why did you choose to study astronomy?

I used to watch the sky all the time with a telescope that my parents gave me when I was young. As I grew up, I knew I wanted to be a scientist, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to do astronomy. I decided to become a professional astronomer after taking astronomy classes in college.

- What kind of work do you now do at Subaru?

I support astronomers that observe with HDS. Many astronomers are not familiar with the instrument, so I help them plan their observations so they can observe efficiently. During the observations, I keep an eye on the conditions at the summit and the status of the instrument. When not observing, I make sure that the instrument is in good working condition as part of a crew that is in Mitaka, Japan, and in Hilo, Hawaii. I also work on making upgrades to the instrument to make it easier to use. HDS is a really stable instrument, so it's a pleasure to work with.

- Is there something that you pay special attention to at your work?

The most important thing in my work is to make sure that the observations are successful. I spend a lot of time creating an environment in which the observations can go smoothly. I spend a lot of time with the astronomers before the observations working out the details, usually by email.

- What is your research specialty?

Using HDS, I study the physical conditions of gas in planetary nebulae, such as chemical composition and temperature. Recently, I found that there are young heavy stars in the galactic halo. The galactic halo is a spherical swarm of stars orbiting around the center of the Milky Way. Astronomers used to think that the galactic halo only contains older light weight stars compared to stars in the disk of the Milky Way. It is really exciting to be making discoveries that challenge conventional wisdom.

- How do you spend your time off?

I play tennis with my friends almost every weekend. I also like to stay at home and relax.

- Do you have any words of wisdom for younger people following in your footsteps?

Do what you like, and become good at it. If you want to work at an observatory, you want to be good at astronomy, but you want to be good at something else as well. Being able to work with scientific equipment or being able to program computers is a big plus. Of course you need basic communication skills like in any job.

High Dispersion Spectrograph (HDS)



Support Astronomer for COMICS
Takuya Fujiyoshi

From: Tokyo, Japan
Hobbies: Photography with my beloved SLR camera, playing soccer, watching sport games

- What's your work background?

I went to Australia for college after graduating from high school in Japan. I observed massive stars in the mid-infrared to study their formation for my Ph.D. After getting my degree, I went to the UK where I spent two years studying low-mass star formation. Now I'm a support astronomer at Subaru.

- What made you decide to pursue astronomy as a career?

When I was in primary school, I got a homework assignment to observe the night sky. We had to choose a star and observe it every 10 minutes. For some reason, the star I chose didn't move at all. I eventually learned that it was the North Star, but that experience got me thinking "why?" Later I even built my own telescope (actually, my parents built most of it). I made the decision to pursue a scientific career just before I graduated from high school.

- What makes COMICS unique?

Very few 8 to 10 meter class telescopes like Subaru have operational mid-infrared instruments, but Subaru does and it is COMICS. Mid-infrared observing is a new field in astronomy. We are now able to study not only nearby solar system objects but also nearby galaxies. At mid-infrared wavelengths, we detect objects that are at room temperature. For example, dust grains around recently-born stars are an improtant target. Their spectra tell us their physical conditions and give us vital clues to solving the mystery of star formation.

- Why did you choose to become the COMICS support astronomer?

As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to work with the only mid-infrared imaging polarimeter in existence at the time. I wanted to continue with mid-infrared astronomy, so working as a support astronomer for COMICS was a good match. I find working with COMICS very rewarding because the people I work with are very energetic and enthusiastic about making continuous improvements to COMICS.

- How do you spend your time off?

I try to relax (an oxymoron?). I went for a walk with my camera in the Hilo zoo the other day. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many different animals.

- Do you have any words of wisdom for younger people following in your footsteps?

I am proof that failing students can still achieve their dreams. I knew what I liked and I never gave up. I remember these words from Wayne Gretzky, an American ice hockey player, very well: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I think that's really true.

Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrograph (COMICS)


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