Visit to Thai National Observatory – near Chiang Mai

At the end of the 2016 Semester 1, I had a fantastic trip over to Chiang Mai to visit the headquarters of the Thai National Observatory, known as NARIT. The NARIT observatory has been beautifully equipped with a set of 0.7-meter telescopes across Thailand, and its flagship telescope, a 2.4-meter telescope which is located near the highest point in Thailand. The strong support of astronomy comes directly from the Thai royal family, who have had a long and deep interest of astronomy. In particular the Thai Princess, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, has been an enthusiastic patron of astronomy as well as liberal arts. She attended the dedication of the 2.4-meter telescope and also has been overseeing the details of the new NARIT astronomy headquarters which is being constructed, and should be completed by the summer of 2017.

During the visit, I met with the director of NARIT, Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, who was a gracious host and convened a wonderful lunch with the staff and another visiting astronomer. I gave a research talk as well and enjoyed meeting many of the astronomers and learning about their research projects. I am looking forward to further work with NARIT in my upcoming Yale-NUS Observational Astronomy course YSC 2217, where we will take a group of Yale-NUS College students to Thailand to visit the observatory and use some of the 0.7 and 0.5 meter telescopes.  I am also eager to bring NARIT into some of the Caltech-based Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen (GROWTH) projects, and already have gotten one of their astronomers into a campaign to monitor a newly discovered gravitational lens. 

After the visit to NARIT in Chaing Mai, we took a long, 2-hour drive to their 2.4-meter telescope which I was able to tour and learn more about with a chance to see the rooftop 0.5-meter and the interior of the telescope with its imaging camera and spectrograph. The pictures below show some of the scenery around Chiang Mai, as well as the 2.4-meter telescope.

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