Japanese series rooted in Taiwan: “Approach the mystery of black holes with Made in Taiwan” Astronomer Satoshi Matsushita | nippon.com

Japanese series rooted in Taiwan: "Approach the mystery of black holes with Made in Taiwan" Astronomer Satoshi Matsushita |  nippon.com

The astronomer who was the dream of an elementary school student

Satoshi Matsushita lived in New York for two years, from third grade to fourth grade due to her father, who worked as a physicist. At the local school where Matsushita studied, science was handled by special teachers, and there was a small planetarium in the science room.

“Science class is about astronomy, which I was not entirely interested in. During this era in the early 1980s, uninhabited planetary astronauts Voyager 1 and 2 got active. It was time for the launch to be successful. In my graduation collection I wrote that my dream for the future was an astronomical person.

One day when I was a junior high school student, my father introduced me to Yusuto Kosaka, the director of the Sentai Astronomical Laboratory, and I started attending the Sentai Astronomical Club with my classmates. At my regular meeting every Saturday, I immersed myself in observing the moon, meteorites, nebulae and clusters from 6:00 pm after the lab closed until 3:00 am the next day. At the time, I was fascinated by Holly’s comet, which existed in a world close to Earth. Sometimes I slept in a sleeping bag on the sphere floor of the lab. Along with adults who are astronomical enthusiasts, I have fully learned about the stars and telescope operational techniques here.

“However, I was not interested in anything other than science. I did not do well in the Liberal Arts Center exam, especially in all the compulsory subjects in Japanese. I did.”

A year after Ronin, he entered the Department of Astronomy at the Faculty of Science at Doho University, studying under Assistant Professor Sumio Ishisuki, who specializes in radio astronomy. The masters program also progressed to Dohogu University Graduate School, but Matsushita also moved to Nobayama when Ishitsuki was transferred to the National Laboratory in Nobayama, Nagano Province.

The doctoral degree belongs to the graduate university for advanced courses and remained the same in Nobayama. There, additional structure galaxies (galaxies outside the galaxy), radio interferometers (a type of radio telescope. The combination of several small radio telescopes is equivalent to a large radio telescope that cannot be perceived by itself. Knowledge and techniques of actual care and adjustment not only for research but also for surveillance tools.

During the post-doctoral era from 2000 to 2003 (a standard term research degree after graduating from doctoral school), he joined the Harvard Smithsonian Astronomical Center and became the world’s first sub-millimeter wave on the island of Mona Kia in Hawaii. He was involved in the construction of the SMA (submillimeter array) radio interferometer (wavelength 1 mm or less). The SMA connects eight radio telescopes with a diameter of 6 meters and views them as a radio interferometer.

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Matsushita’s work was brilliant for both specialized research and surveillance equipment, keeping completed equipment ready for scientific surveillance. In fact, two of the eight SMA radio telescopes are made in Taiwan. The connection between Matsushita and Taiwan was surprisingly connected in Hawaii.

Take advantage of the opportunity with Taiwan’s offer

First, Taiwan’s radio was far removed from the world of astronomical research. However, when Academy Sineca announced its participation in the SMA program in the 1990s, it ordered the Taiwanese manufacturer of the radio telescope used in the SMA. At the moment, it was only made according to the map on the US side, but now Taiwan has acquired the world’s most advanced technology in this field.

On the other hand, the shortage of researchers in the field of radio astronomy in Taiwan was high. Shirahane’s arrow landing on Matsushita, who was remarkably active in launching the SMA, was an immediate situation on the Taiwanese side.

“The growing research environment in this field and the research environment and researcher budgets and scientific research budgets have given me an unforgettable opportunity for Taiwan to have a better research environment than Japan. SMA monitoring data analysis should be done smoothly at a research institute in Taiwan. It was also comfortable to live in.

Thus, since 2003, Matsushita has been employed as a postgraduate in astronomy and astrophysics at the Central Research Institute, a national research institute in Taiwan. Paul Ho, who was an educational consultant at the Harvard Smithsonian Astronomy Center, became the company’s director at the same time. Matsushita, who reunited with her former boss at a research institute in Taipei across the sea, opened her eyes. You can see how Taiwan focuses on protecting human resources in this field.

Appointed Taiwan representative of the virtual giant radio telescope project

In the late 2000s, SMA’s next generation radio interferometer ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter / Sub Millimeter Array) was installed in the Atikama Desert, at an altitude of 5,000 meters. Although it was a joint venture between the United States, Europe and Japan, Taiwan was involved in the construction as a small partner in the United States and Japan on a 5% budget, respectively.

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The Alma has 50 radio telescopes with a diameter of 12 meters. This is 25 times higher than the SMA level. Matsushita flew to Chile in 2010 this time. We passed an interference experiment with 16 radio telescopes and completed it within a year and a half until the first scientific observation was possible.


Alma radio telescope with a diameter of 12 meters and Mr. Satoshi Matsushita

Then, in 2012, he became involved in the operation of the longest baseline interferometer (VLBI) in the installation of the Greenland Telescope (GLT).

Mr.  Satoshi Matsushita looks at the snow on GLT's glass surface
Mr. Satoshi Matsushita looks at the snow on GLT’s glass surface

“Baseline” refers to the distance between the radio telescopes that make up the radio interferometer, and the longer the baseline, the higher the resolution of the telescope. The longest base of the SMA in Hawaii is 500 meters and the ALMA in Chile is about 16 kilometers.

On the other hand, the newly installed GLT in Greenland will be networked with radio telescopes around the world, including SMA and ALMA, and by acting as VLBI, it will play the role of a large virtual radio telescope. The “base” distance relative to the aperture of this virtual radio telescope reaches a maximum of about 9000 km, hence it is called the “ultra-long baseline”. This distance corresponds to 70% of the Earth’s diameter (12,740 km).

Later, using this virtual giant radio telescope, the international research team promoted the event Horizon Telescope, which promotes the illusion of clarity by capturing black holes such as a star and the M87, hereinafter abbreviated as “EHT”). EHT has about 350 members from around the world, about 50 participants from Taiwan, and Matsushita is the representative.

“The success of this project is that Earth-sized radio telescopes can be developed. The resolution will increase dramatically and the boundary surface of the black holes will be dramatically accessed. Until now it has been a mystery. It will be.”

So, in December 2017, Matsushita and her colleagues were sent to the US Army Tour Air Force Base in Greenland, where GLT was temporarily established. Despite the -30 degrees Celsius in the cold region, Matsushita et al. They completed GLT at a scientifically observable level at an extraordinary pace for two months. It should be noted that Taiwan’s technology, accumulated over about 20 years, was also used in the development of radio telescopes for extremely cold regions.

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Mr.  GLT will be relocated in the future when Satoshi Matsushita attends the Greenland Summit
Mr. GLT will be relocated in the future when Satoshi Matsushita attends the Greenland Summit

Research life in Taiwan celebrates its 19th year

One and a half years later, April 10, 2019 is a historic day for astronomers. Analyzing the vast amount of data collected using VLBI technology, EHT captured the shadow of the M87 supermassive black hole for the first time in history and released the image. The news spread around the world in the blink of an eye after holding simultaneous press conferences in six locations in Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai, Washington DC, Brussels and Santiago. Matsushita, who launches new projects such as SMA, ALMA and GLT, is one of the key contributors to this achievement.

“The edge of the orange black hole in the photo is a display of high – temperature plasma. With the black hole interface, parts of the plasma fall into the black hole and magnetic field energy is believed to have been released. “

International collaborative research project with video of Mr. Satoshi Matsushita's black hole succeeds in filming for the first time in EHT history
International collaborative research project with video of Mr. Satoshi Matsushita’s black hole succeeds in filming for the first time in EHT history

Matsushita’s research career in Taiwan also entered its 19th year. The two wheels of Taiwan’s radio astronomy research and the technology that supports it are both world-class masterpieces. Matsushita wants the Taiwanese people to know more about this fact. At the same time, as one of the researchers who uses Taiwanese taxes, he wants to continue to think about how they can return their research to Taiwanese society.

“Taiwanese manufacturers have been developing surveillance equipment for 10 to 20 years, which has supported our research. , Made was able to show Taiwan’s strength to the world.

What surprises us next with Matsushita’s plan? The sequel to Matsushita’s astronomy story says, “Difficulty is fun” and also waits for the teacher who was a former astronomy boy. (Titles omitted)

All photos were provided by Satoshi Matsushita.

The series ends here.

Banner photo = SMA is a small radio telescope to the right of Mr. Satoshi Matsushita. Located on the summit of Mona Kee on the Great Island of Hawaii. Of these, two were made in Taiwan.

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About the Author: Cary Douglas

Cary Douglas is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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