Maui News

Maui Teens and UH Astronomer Featured in Xploration Awesome Planet TV Show

May 14, 2021, 11:14 AM HST
* Updated May 17, 5:53 AM
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  • Maui-based University of Hawaiʻi astronomer J.D. Armstrong is interviewed at the observatory on Haleakalā for the TV show Xploration Awesome Planet. Photo Courtesy: UH
  • Maui teens Wilson Chau and Holden Suzuki will be featured on an episode of Xploration Awesome Planet, an award-winning science TV program. Photo Courtesy: UH
  • Lahanialuna High School student Jed Teagarden will be featured in an episode of Xploration Awesome Planet on May 15, 2021. Photo Courtesy: UH
  • Xploration Awesome Planet is hosted by legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, Philippe. Photo Courtesy: UH
  • UH Astronomer J.D. Armstrong’s students access observational data from telescopes on Haleakalā, including ATLAS. Photo Courtesy: UH

University of Hawaiʻi astronomer J.D. Armstrong and three Maui teens he mentors will be featured on an episode of the award-winning science program Xploration Awesome Planet. The episode airs May 15 at 2:30 pm on KHON.

The Earth science series, which airs on FOX channels nationwide, will showcase Maui students Wilson Chau, Holden Suzuki and Jed Teagarden, who are part of UH Institute for Astronomy’s mentorship program, HI STAR (Hawaiʻi Student/Teacher Astronomy Research). 

Xploration Awesome Planet is hosted by legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, Philippe Cousteau.

Armstrong, and education and outreach specialist who is based on Maui, mentors intermediate and high school students. They are given access to observational data from telescopes on Haleakalā, such as the Las Cumbres Observatory Faulkes Telescope North, Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System and UH’s PAN-STARRS, the world’s leading Near Earth Object (NEO) discovery telescope. 

“The students I’m working with do some pretty amazing work,” Armstrong said. “Take this situation as an example. An object was detected that was going to impact the earth, and I called these guys. It might bother some people to think that the safety of the world might end up in the hands of some teenagers, but it shouldn’t. They know what they are doing.”

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Observational data has led HI STAR students to make cutting-edge discoveries including a potentially hazardous NEO. Chau and Suzuki netted national headlines in 2020 after they helped scientists determine a 1,070-pound space satellite would break up over the South Pacific. Teagarden, 15, who earned top honors for his research on a comet-like asteroid, and co-authored more than a dozen Minor Planet Center circulars.

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HI STAR has mentored more than 100 students in Hawaiʻi. Many have gone on to pursue careers in astronomy and physics. Armstrong’s students are regular winners in the Hawai’i State Science and Engineering Fair and have competed in events at the international level. 

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