Ishigaki Observatory
Since March 12, 2006 Okinawa's Ishigaki Island is home to a 105 cm Ritchey-Chretien telescope housed in a dome 8 meters across. The observatory was constructed by NAOJ, National Astronomical Observatory Japan, and open to the public since April 1, 2006.

Observatory dome. Photo Courtesy: Yasuo Touji

The location is well chosen, indeed. Located near the tropic of Cancer at 24 deg latitude, Ishigaki provides excellent atmospheric conditions for observation, while 84 of 88 constellations, including the Southern Cross, with 21 magnitude 1 stars can be seen through a year. The island is nearly free of jet streams and enjoys stable air conditions. The end of the rainy season comes much earlier than on the mainland while 40% more clear sky days can be expected during summer.

The fully computer controlled, rock-solid Ritchey-Chretien telescope is the same type of reflector as Japan's Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Aperture: 105 cm (effective)
Focal ratio: F12
Focal points:• Cassegrain
• Nasmis 1 (visual)
• Nasmis 2 (infrared)
Travel range:• 15° to 88° in elevation
• south ±270° in azimuth
Dome diameter: 8 meters
(moves with the scope)

A video camera in the focal point reveals Saturn like a child's play. Photo Courtesy: Yasuo Touji

The secondary mirror. Photo Courtesy: Yasuo Touji

Designed for observation of supernovas, gamma burst rays and further astronomical phenomenas, this telescope will hook up with worldwide observatories including backup support for not only Japanese but also international planetary explorations. Ishigaki's new visual telescope will also join coordinated observations with NAOJ's 20 meters large VERA (Very Long Baseline Interferometer Exploration of Radio Astrometry) radio telescope located in the center of the island.

VERA Radio Telescope on Ishigaki Island.
Photo: Robert Brenner

Ishigaki Island Observatory
1024-1 Arakawa, Ishigaki-City, Okinawa Pref., 907-0024 Japan

By the way, did you know that in May 2003 an asteroid (Ishigaki, MPC number 10179) was named after Ishigaki Island and a further asteroid (Seishika, MPC number 10226) after a flower named Seishika which is endemic to Japan's southern islands? Both asteroids were discovered by a Japanese amateur astronomer, Takao Kobayashi, in 1996 and 1997, respectively.