My name is Varrick Suezaki and I am currently a junior at the Illinois Institute of Technology majoring in applied physics specializing in aerospace engineering. I grew up on the Big Island but graduated from maryknoll in 2014. My main interests involve AMO (atomic, molecular, optics) physics and hope to eventually attend graduate school and continue doing research or go into the private sector. Right now my research currently involves improving code for MICE (muon ionization cooling experiment).
Home Island: Big Island
Institution when accepted: Illinois Institute of Technology
Akamai Project: Transforming PANOPTES Accelerometer Output Data into Celestial Coordinates
Project Site: W.M. Keck Observatory
Mentor: Josh Walawender
The discovery and research of exoplanets is not only important, but exciting because it gives us more information about how life started on earth and can reveal planets that support life. One method of detecting exoplanets is known as the transit method. By measuring how much and how often a star dims, the planet size and distance from the star can be determined. Project PANOPTES (Panoptic Astronomical Networked Observatories for a Public Transiting Exoplanets Survey) aims to distribute PANOPTES units (low cost observatories that can be built by the general public) and create a global network of small, autonomous observatories that cumulatively cover a larger portion of the sky. Currently an accelerometer within a PANOPTES unit is being used to keep track of the unit’s position. However, the coordinates of stars and other celestial objects are referenced in celestial coordinates. Celestial coordinates can be described by declination and hour angle which are analogous to latitude and longitude on the “celestial sphere.” In order for PANOPTES units to operate in an autonomous manner, the accelerometer is used to independently determine the mount position. The output data from the accelerometer must be converted from Cartesian coordinates to celestial coordinates. In this project, rotation matrices were used to derive an equation for declination and hour angle in terms of the accelerometer’s Cartesian x, y, z output and the geographical latitude of the telescope. Using the programming language Python, the resulting equations were utilized to determine the declination and hour angle values of the PANOPTES unit’s position from the accelerometer readings. We compare accelerometer derived values to measured declination and hour angle values recorded by a calibrated PANOPTES unit and examined both systematic sources of error (such as hardware limitations in the accelerometer position readings) and statistical uncertainty (from the intrinsic measurement uncertainty in the accelerometer).