Japan's First Infrared Astronomy Satellite Akari (ASTRO-F)
The Inauguration of Collaborative Astronomical Research Between Korea and Japan

Hyung Mok Lee
Professor, Seoul National University
Korean Representative of Akari (ASTRO-F) International Collaborative Research Group
In 1999, three professors from Tokyo visited our university. They were in need of manpower for data management, so they gave presentations on Akari (ASTRO-F) and offered us a chance to collaborate. It was a great opportunity for us, as we had been very keen to work with Japanese astronomers. That was the beginning of my involvement with Akari.
Despite the fact that the data from IRAS, the world's first infrared astronomical satellite, did not have very high resolution, it was extremely significant. Knowing that Akari intends to update the IRAS database with its more sophisticated sensitivity and higher resolution, I was very interested in working on this project.
Just Using Data Is Like Using Commercial Software

As infrared data is in the public domain, Korean astronomers are familiar with its usage. None of us, however, have really had experience in real observation or research projects. Simply using data is like using commercial software: you know how to use it, but you do not know how it works. This is fine up to a point, but for cutting-edge research you need a much deeper understanding of the data. In that sense, I believe that involvement in an actual research project is essential to understanding how the data has been produced and what its limitations are.
From Seoul National University, five professors, three post-docs and several graduate students have participated in Akari. At the moment, about 10 people are working on the project. The collaboration has given us a great opportunity to work on an actual research project for the first time. I am sure that the experience of working on such a large-scale project, which involves so many people, will be reflected in Korea's future projects.




Revival of Excitement from 20 Years Ago

When IRAS was launched in 1983, I was very excited. It produced a huge database, which has become probably the most widely used astronomical database in the world. I was a graduate student at the time, and was writing a paper about interstellar dust. IRAS discovered that there is smaller dust than what had been known at the time, a finding that greatly influenced my paper. The revised IRAS All Sky Map was published in 1998, and has been cited almost 3,000 times around the world since then. It is one of the most exciting references for astronomers, and we are keen to have an updated version. In such circumstances, the biggest mission of Akari is to update the 20-year-old IRAS database with high-resolution data.
As far as I know, after Akari, there will be no other all-sky survey for quite a while, which means that Akari data will likely be used for at least 20 years. There are now plans for three large-scale infrared space telescopes internationally, but all of them are designed to observe specific details. As such, the Akari All Sky Survey is very important for the future of astronomy.


The world's first infrared astronomical satellite

The world's first infrared astronomical satellite
IRAS (1983)

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