Public Release: 

World's largest astronomical observatories now accessible over Internet2

University of Hawaii at Manoa

A new high-performance Internet connection announced today will transform the ability of astronomers to access world-leading telescopes located on the peak of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii.

The University of Hawaii and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) have connected eleven of the world's leading astronomical observatories to Internet2 networks via the Mauna Kea Observatories Communication Network (MKOCN). With a capacity of 45 million bits per second, the new link will dramatically expand the capacity of astronomers around the world to remotely use telescopes located on the Hawaii mountaintop. The connection, which is nearly one thousand times faster than a typical modem, expands access to telescopes situated on Mauna Kea in a variety of ways.

Dr. Frederic H. Chaffee, Director of the Keck Observatory, observed that "this new high-speed link will bring us all closer to our user communities on the mainland. In certain applications it will be possible for astronomers with access to Internet2 networks to 'observe' with the Keck telescopes from authorized mainland sites. In addition, we can use the link to participate in technical collaborations via videoconferencing without ever leaving our headquarters in Waimea. The potential of the new high-speed connection is enormous."

Astronomers around the world are also now able to connect in real time to the Gemini North control center in the University of Hawaii at Hilo Research Park. According to Gemini Operations Manager Jim Kennedy "the new link will be crucial in coordinating advanced communications and scientific activities when our high-performance connection is completed to the Gemini South facility in Chile." The Gemini telescopes in Hawaii and Chile are part of a multi-national effort to build twin 8.1 meter astronomical telescopes.

Additionally, home country access to international observatories on Mauna Kea, such as the new Japanese Subaru telescope, will dramatically improve through Internet2's extensive set of international relationships and connections.

A new set of collaborations was crucial to establishing this connection. The University of Hawaii and Gemini agreed on a joint technical plan, which received financial support from the National Science Foundation and network connectivity from the Defense Research and Engineering Network.

"This network connection is a result of a partnership that shows what is possible when you combine resources to solve common problems," said David Lassner, director of the University of Hawaii's Information Technology Services. "This would have been prohibitively expensive if we tried to work independently or without the help of several federal agencies."

The new connection was supported by a $340,000 High Performance Connections grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the University of Hawaii Information Technology Services and a $600,000 NSF grant to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) to connect Gemini and the other Mauna Kea Observatories. By cooperating to leverage both grants, the University of Hawaii and AURA are providing connections from the Mauna Kea summit to the University of Hawaii at Hilo Research Park and then on to the Hawaii GigaPoP. The Hawaii GigaPoP is a new regional high-performance network aggregation point at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, located in Honolulu on the Island of Oahu. The University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy will provide Hilo-based operational support for the MKOCN connections and services.

A key to Hawaii's high performance connection to Abilene, an Internet2 backbone network, is the US Department of Defense's Research and Engineering Network (DREN). The Hawaii GigaPoP is able to use DREN's 45 million bit per second link between Hawaii and California -- an in-kind service valued at over $1.5 million per year -- through a special agreement among the University of Hawaii, DREN and NSF.

There are educational benefits to the new link as well. The high-performance connection will allow the observatories to share more of their findings with the public through techniques such virtual observatory tours and live video from Mauna Kea to museums, planetaria and classrooms world-wide. The University of Hawaii at Hilo will be developing a new Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center in its Research Park, which will utilize the high-performance connections to the observatories along with a planetarium, videoconferencing and instructional facilities.


Internet2 is developing and deploying advanced network applications and technologies for research and higher education, accelerating the creation of tomorrow's Internet. Internet2 recreates the partnership of academia, industry and government that helped foster today's Internet in its infancy. For more information about Internet2, see:

The Gemini 8-meter Observatory Project is an international partnership that receives major funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and includes: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. The NSF acts as executive agency for the international Gemini partnership. For more information, see:

For more information about the Mauna Kea Observatories and the MKOCN, see:

For more information about Internet2 at the University of Hawaii, see:

For more information about Abilene, see:

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