Michelle Simon was born in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She always excelled in math and upon graduating from Kealakehe High School she got awards in both math and physics, along with being a valedictorian. After high school Michelle went off to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. There she tried a number of different classes before taking an introduction to computer science course. There was no going back after that and today Michelle currently will be majoring in computer science with a minor in math.
Home Island: Big Island
High School: Kealakehe High School
Institution when accepted: Pacific Lutheran University
Akamai Project: Precise Baseline Estimation of the Keck Interferometer
Project Site: W.M. Keck Observatory
Mentors: Jorg-Uwe Pott, Ben Berkey & Michael Hrynevych
In astronomy, the American saying “The bigger, the better,” holds true especially for telescopes. Bigger telescopes are needed to collect more light to show images of fainter objects. Larger telescopes also allow for greater angular resolution, to observe more details of objects. However, making a larger telescope is difficult. The larger the glass primary mirror becomes, the harder it is to work with and control. One way to compensate for this difficulty, which is done for the two Keck telescopes, is to use an interferometer to combine the light from two smaller telescopes to simulate one large telescope. Using an interferometer requires measuring the distance, or baseline, between the two telescopes in the form of a vector. Since Keck’s recent acquisition of the instrument ASTRA, which detects subtle position shifts of stars, scientists need to know the interferometer’s fringe positions precisely: for this they must know the baseline down to micrometers. This requires a program called bFit which derives the baseline from input data taken by pointing the telescopes at various objects across the sky. However, some types of input data cause bFit to work ineffectively and cause the error in the baseline and the baseline measurement to shift greatly. We have documented the various types of input data that cause problems, in order for the interferometer team to better avoid these problems. The second part of this project was to create an easy interface for integrating known telescope motions in the baseline-calculation performed by bFit. This project can be extended to other telescopes. The ‘OHANA instrument will enable a link of all willing telescopes on Mauna Kea to create an even bigger interferometer array than the existing Keck Interferometer.