Renowned astronomer Harland Epps to be honored at ‘Harfest’ conference Sept. 23-24

Harland Epps
Harland Epps received the Muhlmann Award this year from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. (Photo courtesy of H. Epps)

Leading astronomers from around the United States and abroad will gather at the Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz on September 23 and 24 for the “Harfest” conference to honor UC Santa Cruz astronomer Harland W. Epps, who retired in July.

Epps, a professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics, has been at the forefront of designing optics for astronomical instruments for more than 50 years. His optics have been applied to instruments on several major telescopes worldwide, including the world’s largest telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

"Harland's retirement this past July caps a brilliant career, leading the world's astronomical community in the design and construction of state-of-the-art instrumentation for ground-based and space-based astronomy,” said Steve Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and chair of the Harfest organizing committee.

Over the course of his career, Epps has designed optics for more than 50 instruments. Recently, he completed the optics for the Multi-Object Spectrograph for Infrared Exploration (MOSFIRE), a fully cryogenic near-infrared spectrograph that is currently operational on the Keck I telescope in Hawaii. This instrument is designed to probe some of the most distant objects in the universe.

“His optical design work has revolutionized observational astronomy, and is the unseen ‘wind beneath the wings’ of countless exciting astronomy news stories the public has enjoyed over the past four decades," said Vogt.

Epps’ optical designs serve telescopes including the Shane Telescope at the nearby Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory, the Keck Telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) at the Whipple Observatory in Arizona, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas, and others.

Many of Epps’ optics support international telescopes as well, including the SOAR telescope at Cerro Pachon, the Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and the SALT telescope in South Africa.

In August 2014, Epps was honored by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific with the Muhlmann Award in recognition of his career in instrumentation. 

The "Harfest" conference will commence on Tuesday, September 23, with a full day of scientific talks, followed by a banquet celebrating Epps’ many accomplishments.

Talks will continue on September 24, followed by a wine tasting sponsored by former UC Observatories Director Joe Miller.

Details about the conference are available online at