150 years of UK-Japan collaborations

In this post we have an event report from the 150 years of UK-Japan collaborations: Science, Technology and Innovation Symposium - Astronomy & Space Science, which was held at the Embassy of Japan in the UK, 6 December 2013


Hello, my name is Daisuke Kawata, I am a Lecturer at MSSL. My main research topic is galaxy formation and evolution using numerical simulations, which I will blog about more one day here. However, today, I would like to talk about a particularly interesting symposium that I organised at the Embassy of Japan in London on 6th December 2013 (with “a bit of” bias toward Japanese missions and facilities…)

Last year saw the 150th anniversary of the first exchange of scholars between Japan and the UK. In the late stage of the Samurai period, five Japanese students, the ‘Choshu Five’, arrived at UCL, one of whome, Hirobumi Ito, later became the first prime minister of Japan. Since then, Japan and the UK have exchanged scholars and developed collaborative work across many fields including Science, Technology and Innovation.

One of the fields in which we have a long history is astronomy and space science. These links were formed when the Royal Greenwich Observatory supported Makoto Hirayama for his studies in astronomy in 1890; later he became the director of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, helping smooth the way for his successors. Nowadays, our two countries have established a number of international projects which are aimed at solving frontier problems in astronomy and space science. ‘150 years of UK-Japan Collaboration: Science, Technology and Innovation Symposium – Astronomy & Space Science’ highlighted past, current and future collaboration in astronomy and space science, covering a wide range of research topics, from the Sun to cosmology. The symposium was a part of “The Japan-UK Science, Technology & Innovation Symposium” series. It was held at an interesting venue, the ballroom of the Embassy of Japan in the UK in London.

The symposium began with opening remarks by Prof Len Culhane (former director of MSSL, UCL). In the first session, “the UK-Japan Space Science Mission”, we had 4 speakers summarising the space science mission in the UK and Japan, and our collaborations. Prof Grahame Blair (STFC) summarised the STFC’s support to astronomy and space science projects. Dr David Parker (CEO of UK Space Agency) showed a summary of the space science mission. He emphasized that cutting-edge sciences are supported by innovative technologies, for example the giga-pixel camera onboard European Space Agency (ESA)’s “Gaia” where MSSL made a major contribution.

Professor Saku Tsuneta

Professor Saku Tsuneta

Prof Saku Tsuneta (Director of ISAS/JAXA) presented a comprehensive summary of Japanese space science projects. He stressed that the international collaborations are making Japanese space missions more successful and higher profile, and the successful UK-Japan collaborations should grow even more. Mr Atsushi Murakami (IHI Aerospace) gave a presentation about the Epsilon rocket. This session highlighted the exciting space science missions which are well supported by both British and Japanese governments, and the successful collaborations of the UK and Japan in the space mission.

Dr David Parker gave a gift to the ambassador of Japan, Mr Keiichi Hayashi.

Dr David Parker gave a gift to the ambassador of Japan, Mr Keiichi Hayashi.

In the next session, “Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science: Highlighting the UK-Japan Collaborations”, we had 6 talks by the world-leading researchers who showed their cutting-edge researches in the way which non-specialist can understand. The ambassador of Japan kindly delivered his welcome speech before this session, and Dr David Parker gave a gift, Sun’s image taken by Hinode (Japan, UK, USA Solar mission), to the ambassador.

Prof Louise Harra (MSSL, UCL) talked about Solar Physics, highlighting her fruitful collaboration with Japanese researchers through the Hinode mission. Prof Giovanna Tinetti (Physics & Astronomy, UCL) gave a talk about the exciting new discoveries of exoplanets, highlighting the results of Subaru telescope in Hawaii and big expectation to the Japan-led SPICA mission. Prof Chris Done (Durham) talked about Black Holes and Active Galactic Nuclei. She also highlighted successful collaboration with Japanese researchers through the Japanese X-ray missions, like GINGA, ASKA, SUZAKU and future Astro-H.

After a tea break, Dr Andrew Bunker (Oxford) talked about the galaxy formation, highlighting Subaru observations of the deep Universe which are revealing the pictures of baby galaxies. Prof Bob Nichol (Portsmouth) highlighted the UK-Japan collaborations through galaxy survey, such as Sloan Degital Sky Survey, SDSS. He highlighted the instrument development by Japanese team which was crucial for the huge success of SDSS. He also introduced ESA’s exciting new cosmology mission, Euclid, and highlighted the MSSL-lead development of the VIS instrument.

Lord Martin Rees and Professor Hitoshi Murayama

Lord Martin Rees and Professor Hitoshi Murayama

The final talk was presented by Prof Hitoshi Murayama (UC Berkeley, Director of Kavli IPMU, University of Tokyo) who gave a fascinating presentation about dark matter that is the dominant matter in the Universe, but not yet discovered. He introduced exciting new instrument of Subaru, Hyper-Suprime-Cam (HSC), and a planned next-generation instrument for Subaru, PFS (Prime Focus Spectrograph). He also highlighted successful international collaboration in cosmology and particle physics. Finally, Lord Martin Rees (Cambridge) delivered his inspiring concluding remarks. Then, all the participants enjoyed the reception with wine, champaign and the yummy Japanese food.

We had about 190 participants who were staff of governmental organization, staff and students at the academic institutions, not only from astronomy and space science, but also from various disciplines, and general public. We have received a number of positive feedbacks from the participants who told us that the symposium was successful and enjoyable. I thank very much the many people who came to the symposium, to the great speakers, organisers, and the staff of the Embassy of Japan and MSSL, who kindly supported the symposium.

The programme of the symposium and copies of all the presentations can be seen at the symposium website. We could see from the symposium that the active collaborations between the two countries in various area of astronomy and space science are developing further, and we have many exciting future projects to explore the Universe together!

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