Benjamin Honey is a sophomore studying aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. Ben is a resident of Waikoloa on the Big Island and grew up amidst the local astronomical community, which helped to develop his passion for astronomy and space exploration. The sport of Ultimate Frisbee is Ben’s second passion; he is considering attending Stanford University to earn his master’s degree and to play on their Ultimate team. Ben hopes to apply his education to a career in space exploration.
Institution when accepted: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
Akamai Project: Improving Efficiency of Access to Keck Interferometer M7 Optics Bench
Project Site: W.M. Keck Observatory
Mentors: Jim Bell and Drew Medeiros
The W.M. Keck Observatory’s Interferometer – the first system of its kind – became operational in the spring of 2001. Since 2003, the Keck interferometer has been producing scientific results on the cutting edge of astronomy, primarily in the discovery of exo-solar planets. The M7 mirror is the final mirror in the Interferometer’s coude train, which directs light from the telescope’s nasmyth deck into the beam-combining room in the basement of the summit facility. Current access to the M7 optics bench is difficult. Technicians can only enter the small concrete room – known as the ‘crypt’ – through the long coude tunnel, which is separated from the room by an insulating diaphragm. Temperature differences between the telescope dome above the crypt and the interferometer basement create convection currents that can interfere with the coude light beams, making insulation necessary. This project will replace the current diaphragm with a redesigned system that will make entering the crypt faster and less strenuous. The new design will build upon recommendations from Keck interferometer technicians – who will provide their input at a design review – and integrate into the existing structure of the old system to minimize turnaround during the installation process. Reducing the time to enter or exit the crypt from a few minutes to a few seconds will greatly improve the efficiency of the interferometer support crew on the summit. Various materials will be researched for selection based upon their insulating and out gassing properties. The final design will be modeled in Autodesk Inventor from which machining drawings can be produced for fabrication.