Conversation with Jean-Charles

Jean-Charles Cuillandre, astronomer at CFHT

Stars in Snow and Gravel Land work at the CFHT Observatory
Working in snow on gravel from images given to me by Jean-Charles

It was a hurried morning of quick introductions by the Director, Christian Veillet, to some of the staff at the Canad France Hawaii Telescope offices in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Jean-Charles Cuillandre is not only a brilliant astronomer but is one of the world’s most important people in the field of imaging the cosmos. Working with the telescope’s famous Mega-Cam — a very advanced camera system for capturing astronomical images as well as conventional cameras for outdoor photos of the observatory and environs, he continues to produce award winning images. His startlingly beautiful pictures are not mere artistic whimsy. He works with an international team, including some image-savy Italians in the publishing business to produce the world famous photographs, some of which are featured on the annual CFHT Calendar. These images of the universe are true to the science uncovered by the far reaching telescope. For example, if a specific gas or solid captured in the image is colour specific, that colour will be truly represented. In other words, the astonishing colour range within these jewel-like pictures is solidly scientifically grounded.

His preoccupation with astronomy began when he was a young child, fascinated with science fictions tales of space. He has retained his youthful enthusiasm as an adult and continues to work on both the science and artistic depiction of the stars. I asked for a ‘seminal’ picture — a picture with a graphic entity which would be immediately recognizable to the astronomy community. In spite of his busy schedule, he helpfully provided me with a printed image which I was able to use at the summit in a landwork involving snow and water in the gravel outside the observatory. In my hurry, I neglected to obtain an identifying title for the picture. I hope to remedy this in an upcoming posting!

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~ by Colleen McLaughlin Barlow on May 9, 2011.

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