Subaru releases first image from Hyper-Suprime-Cam


A new camera atop Subaru Telescope is living up to expectations scientists have been harboring for a decade.

“We’re in the process of commissioning it,” Subaru spokeswoman Suzanne Frayser said of the observatory’s Hyper-Suprime-Cam. “They’re testing it to find out if it does what it’s supposed to do. The big deal about the image (released this week) is that it does.”

Subaru released the image of the Andromeda Galaxy as a demonstration of the newest camera’s abilities, Frayser said.

“The field of view or the area it captures is seven times larger than Suprime Cam’s,” she said, referring to the telescope’s older camera. “You get this much larger field of view and the resolution is as good as Suprime Cam’s.”

“Prime” in the cameras’ names refers to the focus the cameras use. To get prime focus, the cameras are placed at the top of the telescope, a precarious place for two-ton and three-ton instruments, Frayser said. Subaru is one of the premier telescopes using prime focus, she added. Hyper-Suprime-Cam is the heaviest of the two, and at 3 meters tall, observatory officials had to make room to accommodate it.

“It just takes extra effort to exchange instruments at prime focus,” she said.

Keeping the telescope properly balanced while placing the instrument is also a challenge.

Hyper-Suprime-Cam was built at the National Observatory of Japan. Frayser said the camera was first conceptualized in the early 2000s.

This week’s image of the Andromeda Galaxy shows the potential for the kind of images the camera can get, Frayser said. Observatory staff is completing some additional work on the telescope’s mirror, which will likely not be completed until next month. Frayser said observatory officials are hoping Hyper-Suprime-Cam is available for scientists to use by the end of this year.

The bigger field of vision means astronomers need fewer observations to get the images they’re looking for, Frayser said.

“It’s going to change the face of observational astronomy,” she said.