9th edition of the Maunakea Graduate School

The 2019 Maunakea Graduate School participants at the top of Maunakea in Hawaii. (Credit: S. Courteau).
The 2019 Maunakea Graduate School participants at the top of Maunakea in Hawaii. (Credit: S. Courteau).

Five Canadian graduate students had the chance to attend the Maunakea Graduate School (MKGS), which took place between April 2nd and 13th. Under the supervision of professional astronomers, the students were able to design scientific programs and obtain telescope time to observe the programs during their visit. They were able to learn more about astronomical instruments, how large observatories work, and about Hawaiian culture.

The ninth edition of the Maunakea Graduate School took place last April. Designed and managed by Stéphane Courteau, a professor at Queen’s University in Ontario, this summer school allows M.Sc. and Ph.D. students to perfect their training in observational astronomy. The iREx is proud to be a partner in this school for the 2nd year in a row. The purpose of the school is to allow graduate students to visit the great observatories on the Big Island of Hawaii at the top of Maunakea and see how they work. Nowadays, most graduate students do not have the chance to collect their own data on-site at telescopes. The MKGS wants to fill the gap between the observations and the students by allowing them to visit the Gemini-North Observatory and Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) operation offices, as well as some of the telescopes on the summit of Maunakea.

Five Canadian students were selected to participate in the MKGS. Christopher Benson (University of Lethbridge, Alberta), Prashansa Gupta (iREx, Université de Montréal), Christopher Mann (iREx, Université de Montréal), Annabelle Richard-Laferière (Université de Montréal) and Visal Sok (York University). They were accompanied by Cemile Marsan (postdoctoral researcher at the York University in Ontario) as well as David Berardo and Stephanie O’Neil, two MIT students. They were supervised by Stéphane Courteau, accompanied by Michael McDonald (associate professor at MIT) and Frédérique Baron (iREx Scientific and EPO Coordinator).


Group photo of all MKGS participants during their visit to the Gemini-North Observatory Operation Center. (Credit: J. Pollard)

One of the main projects led by the students was to design an observing program. They all worked on different projects and then evaluated each others’ in order to agree on the two best ones. Thanks to the generosity of the Gemini Observatory and the CFHT, these two selected scientific programs were then observed during the school, one at the CFHT using the SITELLE instrument and the other at Gemini-North using the GNIRS instrument. The weather being favourable, students were able to participate in the acquisition of data and were able to leave the island with their data in hand.

Follow us to find out when the next edition of this exceptional school will take place!

The Maunkea Graduate School is made possible thanks to the financial contribution of the iREx, the CFHT and Gemini observatories, and the contribution of Canadian astronomers in Hawaii.