DATE2023.04.12 #News

President Fujii visits NAOJ and extends the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the Atacama Observatory (TAO) at The University of Tokyo

Disclaimer: machine translated by DeepL which may contain errors.

The University of Tokyo and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) have re-signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for the operation of the 6.5m Aperture TAO Telescope at the Atacama Observatory of the University of Tokyo ( TAO Project). President Teruo Fujii visited NAOJ to sign the MOU and met with Director General Saku Tsuneda of NAOJ, followed by a tour of NAOJ's facilities. He also visited the Graduate School of Science's Institute ofAstronomy, where he saw MIMIZUKU, the main instrument of the TAO telescope.


Teruo Fujii, President of The University of Tokyo (left) and Saku Tsuneda, Director of NAOJ (right) (credit: NAOJ)

The TAO project is a large-scale project that has been carried out by The University of Tokyo for more than 20 years to construct and operate a large infrared telescope with an aperture of 6.5 meters at the world's highest altitude of 5640 meters in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The telescope is currently in the final stages of construction and is scheduled to finally begin scientific observations next year. Under these circumstances, The University of Tokyo and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) have re-signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation in the operation of the TAO telescope, which was signed five years ago.

Since the TAO telescope will be located in the southern hemisphere, it will be able to observe the entire sky in the visible infrared in cooperation with the Subaru Telescope (Hawaii, USA), which is owned by NAOJ. In combination with the ALMA telescope, which is located next to the Subaru Telescope site, the two telescopes will be able to perform multi-wavelength observations ranging from visible-infrared to radio waves. Through the operational collaboration, new world-leading observational research in a wide range of fields such as planets, stars, interstellar matter, galaxies, and cosmology is expected to be possible.

President Teruo Fujii (left) and Director Takashi Miyata of Atacama Observatory (in Institute of Astronomy) visiting the TAO instruments

The TAO telescope is expected to be the first in the world to observe the Sun," said Takashi Miyata, Director of the Atacama Observatory at the Center for Astronomy Education and Research.
Thanks to its high altitude, the TAO telescope will be able to observe mid-infrared radiation in the 30 micron wavelength band, which was previously invisible. Such infrared light can detect warm dust well. On the other hand, radio observations show gas and cold dust. Combining these two techniques, it is possible to clearly observe, for example, a disk of gas and dust around a star, and to obtain clues as to how planets are born in the disk. This kind of wavelength collaboration is essential in modern astronomy, but TAO is a telescope that can play a very unique role at a very unique wavelength, and we believe that collaboration with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and other telescopes in Japan and abroad is effective and important."

The TAO telescope plans to provide approximately 35% of its scientific observation time to a wide range of researchers across the country. In addition, TAO will also promote the use of the telescope by graduate students, thereby contributing to the development of young researchers. In this sense, TAO serves as a bridge between NAOJ's future large-scale plan and research, education, and human resource development at universities.

TAO's operating entity, Institute of Astronomy Director Mamoru Doi said, "NAOJ is a bridge between Subaru Telescope's future large-scale projects and the university's research, education, and human resource development.
The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) has a long track record of nationwide joint use of telescopes, such as the Subaru Telescope and ALMA. We are very grateful for their support in the past, and we hope that they will further cooperate in the operation of the TAO telescope and enhance the system so that researchers not only at the University of Tokyo but also throughout Japan can utilize the telescope. In particular, we hope that the TAO telescope will play an important role in education and human resource development as a university telescope. We would like to actively encourage budding and challenging research and the development of cutting-edge instruments by students and young researchers, and we will make every effort to foster human resources who can play an active role in the next-generation 30-meter telescope TMT and other projects that NAOJ is promoting.

The re-signing of the MOU with NAOJ provides further strong support for the future operation of the TAO telescope, and we look forward to new world-leading observational research with the TAO telescope.