Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pan-STARRS podcast

If you didn't catch the HPR interview with Nick Kaiser, you can listen to it as a podcast:

Scientists Search for Killer Asteroids
Last week a University of Hawaii astronomer predicted an asteroid – that he found several years ago - will likely miss Earth. These days, finding killer asteroids is a highly inefficient process. But UH researchers are building a one of a kind telescope array to do just that. There are still some bugs to work out, but as HPR's Ben Markus reports it'll do much more than just find apocalyptic asteroids.

Runs: 2:25
AIRED: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hawaii Eclipse Adventure

by Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

The next solar eclipse takes place on July 11, 2010, across a swath of the South Pacific. This piece commemorates another July 11 eclipse, visible from the Big Island and the east end of Maui in 1991.

While we set up camp in a remote area of Maui, my college-aged daughter, Debbie, and I tried to block out a man blasting his off-key voice and miss-strummed guitar notes through an elaborate sound system. Along with a few hundred other people on the evening of July 10, 1991, we’d come to a temporary campground to witness a rare total eclipse of the Sun to take place soon after sunrise the next morning.

High up on a bluff overlooking a black sand beach and crashing waves, we were in the eclipse totality zone on a tiny strip along the southeastern edge of the island in a remote area called Kaupo. If you’re looking toward the ocean when you drive through Kaupo, you miss downtown’s single building, a picturesque general store that is open only three hours a day. You don’t want to miss downtown, though, when it’s been so much trouble to get to Kaupo. Although it’s only fifty miles from Kihei, where my parents lived, the trip takes two hours and is best made in a four-wheel drive vehicle. The last thirty miles are narrow, winding, and full of potholes in which you could easily lose a small child. Cattle have the right-of-way on this road and often take it.

Debbie and I moved gear up to the front seat of our Explorer and made up a bed in the back. We chatted with other campers while standing in line at portable johns. The big excitement of the evening was watching the police try to find more gas for their floodlight generator. The rock star never-gonna-be eventually turned down his amplifiers and croaked out some softer tunes.

Debbie and I admired our view of the stars and set the travel clock alarm so that we would be sure to wake up in plenty of time to witness the event. Eclipses of the Sun occur every year or two, but the totality zone is narrow and usually goes through the middle of an ocean or some remote mountain or desert.

Seeing a partial eclipse simply isn’t the same; you can go about your normal activities without ever realizing one is happening. Total eclipses are dramatic and awe inspiring, so I’d been told by those who had seen one. Debbie and I went to sleep in great anticipation of tomorrow’s celestial event.

We woke up at 2:30 a.m. when rain blew in the windows and onto our faces. But we went back to sleep, sure that this was one of those night showers common to many areas of Maui. After all, it never rains in Kaupo in July. It may rain a few miles away, but this is always where the rain stops and beautiful rainbows arch across the sky.

We awoke at first light to visions of dense gray clouds as far as we could see in all directions. The Sun must be up, but where was it? We got out the compass to determine where it should be. It wasn’t there—or anywhere else. Maui, the Sun god, apparently had left for Cabo San Lucas.

Debbie and I got breakfast out of the cooler and ate sitting in the bed in the back of the car. The rain seemed to be letting up. Maybe this would clear in the next hour.

When the appointed time arrived for the beginning of the eclipse, we searched for a break in the clouds but saw only a new gray wall moving in off the ocean. Then about 7:15 it got noticeably darker. Those of us left at the campground—dozens had already departed—got out of our cars to have a clear view, in case we could see anything. Two dogs who had been sitting on the ground beside a truck climbed into it and went to sleep.

I shot photos of clouds in all directions while my light meter steadily plunged. I knew when totality arrived because the light meter no longer registered, even with the lens wide open. It wasn’t dark like night but more like immediately after sunset, before the sky turns black.

In a minute it was light again. Totality was over. Debbie and I packed up and joined a three-mile line of cars doing fifteen to twenty miles an hour in the rain. (In good weather you’re lucky to get up to twenty-five miles an hour on the straight stretches.) No one honked or cursed or squealed tires. We were part of a huge, silent snake winding across the open slopes of Haleakala volcano, pausing occasionally until cows decided to amble off the road.

We finally reached Kula, where we should have had a view of most of Maui and three other islands. Nothing but gray—no islands, no West Maui Mountains, no valley, no coastline, no top of Haleakala. Only one big gray cloud.

Debbie and I told each other that when we got home to Kihei, we could watch the live television coverage that my parents were taping. Reporters were watching the eclipse from the totality zone on the Big Island. And we did exactly that, right up until the tape ended shortly after totality started. The electricity in Kihei had gone off due to the rain, and the recording had stopped. The power didn’t come back on until after the eclipse was over.

My brother and his family, who had gone to the Big Island to watch the eclipse, would be flying back to Maui later in the day. Don had consulted numerous experts about the best place to see the phenomenon. This evening we could watch his video. We thought.

“This black cloud moved over the Sun right before totality and didn’t move off until totality was over,” Don said. “The only people who saw the eclipse were ones lying around the pool at our hotel in Kona—and they didn’t even know what was going on.”

The weather service people expressed surprise at such unseasonal weather. They apparently consulted only scientific instruments, instead of Pele, the volcano goddess. Since she is extremely jealous of Sun worshippers, it might have been prudent to ask about her plans for the day.

The next day my father, Debbie, and I took a helicopter trip around East Maui. We had a clear view of where we had camped—with the Sun shining down on it. We picked up my printed eclipse photos on the way home. The set included the widest range of gray shades that have ever been photographed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flat Stanley’s Eclipse Trip

By Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

This report about the July 22 eclipse is especially for elementary students and teachers. You already know who Flat Stanley is. For the rest of you, he’s a storybook character who got smashed flat by a bulletin board. On the way to study the eclipse on Enewetak, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy eclipse team met a second grade teacher from Oregon at the hotel on Majuro, our first stop in the Marshall Islands. (Please see entries below for descriptions of the trip and the eclipse.)

The teacher asked us to take a paper Flat Stanley with us to Enewetak and send her a report about Flat Stanley’s eclipse experience to share with her class. The following describes what Flat Stanley saw and did while he traveled with us.

A group of eighteen scientists and amateur astronomers traveled from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. We wanted to study the Sun during the total eclipse on July 22. An eclipse happens when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are lined up just right, and the Moon covers up the entire Sun. Then it gets dark, and you can see the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. It looks like a white lion’s mane. (The Earth has an atmosphere, too. It’s the air all around us.)

During an eclipse the Moon blocks the bright light coming from the Sun, the sky gets dark, and you can see the Sun's atmosphere.

An atoll is a ring of tiny coral islands surrounding a lagoon. A lagoon is a seawater lake. It is really part of the ocean, but it has only small waves because it is protected by the islands around it. Some of the islands are large enough for people to live on, and some are not. The name Enewetak includes all the islands that make up the atoll. It is also the name of the largest island, where everyone in Enewetak lives.

Flat Stanley enjoyed swimming with us in the lagoon.

Most of the people in our group work with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. Not all of us live in Hawaii, though. Our group included people from other states, as well as people from Germany, Wales, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Nearly everyone spoke more than one language, so we could all talk to one another.

You have to be in just the right place to see a total eclipse. Usually the place is hard to get to. If Flat Stanley had come with our group, first he would have had to fly about five hours from Oregon to Honolulu, Hawaii. That is about the time between lunch and dinner. Then Flat Stanley would have spent the night at a hotel in Honolulu. Early the next morning, way before breakfast, Flat Stanley would have boarded another airplane and flown with our group another five hours to Majuro. Majuro Atoll is the capital of the Marshall Islands. We met the teacher from Oregon and Flat Stanley at our hotel there.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the country’s whole name, is across the international dateline. That means we left Honolulu on a Wednesday, but it was Thursday when we got to Majuro only five hours later. That is like going to school on a Wednesday morning and when you come back to your classroom after lunch, it is Thursday. When we returned to Honolulu, we left Majuro on a Monday night and landed in Honolulu on Sunday night, so we had two Mondays that week. Isn’t that weird?

Flat Stanley flew with us in a little airplane with two propellers for over three hours to get to Enewetak. This was the best place in the world to see the eclipse. The scientists wanted to learn more about the corona, and during an eclipse is the best time to study it. Most of what scientists have already learned has surprised them and raised more questions. (One of the most common things astronomers say is, “We didn’t expect to find that.” That is how science usually works. You get a surprising answer to one question, and then you have more questions.)

Flat Stanley and the eclipse team flew to Enewetak in this airplane.

The Sun affects our lives, and the lives of all creatures and plants on Earth, every day. Can you think of ways the Sun plays a part in your daily life? The Sun also affects astronauts and all the satellites we have circling the Earth. We need to learn all we can about the Sun and its corona. For example, we need to know more about how the Sun influences weather, here on Earth and out in space where astronauts go.

Flat Stanley helped Dr. Huw Morgan analyze the information from his experiments during the eclipse.

Flat Stanley and the amateur astronomers in our group wanted to see the eclipse. This was the first total eclipse of the Sun I ever saw. It is hard for me to think of a more awesome, spectacular, strange, and beautiful event. It was way better than watching TV. I hope I get to see many more. So does Flat Stanley. (Please see entries below for a complete description of the eclipse and photos.)

Right before and right after the Moon completely covers the Sun, Flat Stanley saw what is called the diamond ring. (Photo by Dr. Isabelle Scholl.)

The weather on Enewetak was about 95 to 100 degrees every day. One day it was 108. It was extremely humid. That means that everything always felt wet. It also rained at least once every day, usually only for ten or twenty minutes at a time. We carried Flat Stanley around in a plastic bag to keep him dry. Sometimes we took him out of the bag, but then he rolled up and became Curly Stanley.

Enewetak is different from any other place I have been. It has no stores, no restaurants, no post office, no money machines, no doctor’s office. The nearest McDonald’s is thousands of miles away. (There is not even one on Majuro.) Enewetak has no phones or faxes, no Internet, no video games, no TVs. It has only one road. You can walk across the whole island in about thirty or forty minutes.

We lived in two buildings that had bedrooms, bathrooms, a workroom, a kitchen, and a washer and dryer. An extremely loud generator provided power to run our scientific instruments, lights, and appliances. We brought a cook and our own food with us from Majuro. We could not decide whether we liked the pineapple cake or the carrot cookies best. Flat Stanley voted for the cookies.

Flat Stanley lived and worked with the eclipse team in this building.

Most of the time we were working. It took a long time to set up our instruments, get them adjusted correctly, and practice the experiments we wanted to do during the eclipse. But we also took time to read books, go swimming in the warm lagoon, toss a Frisbee, play with sand and hermit crabs, and watch lovely sunrises and sunsets. One evening we had a fly-swatting contest. The flies did not bite, but they were always buzzing around. We also had cockroaches, termites, and mosquitoes.

About 250 people live on Enewetak. They raise pigs and chickens for food, and they go fishing. Children go to elementary school on the island, but they have to go to Majuro for high school or college. Many of the people speak both Marshallese and English. They are very friendly. Nearly everyone came to greet us when our plane landed. They placed leis (flower necklaces) around our necks and gave us cold coconuts. A man with a large knife cut the tops off the coconuts so that we could drink the sweet, clear juice. It really tasted good on such a hot day.

To have fun learning about the Sun and planets, go to the I Was Wondering site. You can ask questions there, too.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D

Recently, an animation of a fly through of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D has been posted on YouTube.
The animation was computed using the measured redshifts of all 10,000 galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image and has accompanying narration and background musical score.
That animation and many others have been produced by Dr. Michael R. Gallis [Penn State Schuylkill] and the
Animations for Physics and Astronomy Project. Astronomy sequences include retrograde motion of the planets, eclipes, and Kepler's Laws. Animations for mechanics, vectors, optics, waves and other phenomena are also on view. I especially enjoyed the fractals in the miscellaneous section.
The Project now has its very own YouTube Channel.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Aug 19: The Sun, the Stars and the IfA


The Sun, the Stars and the IfA

by IfA Director Dr. Rolf Peter Kudritzki

IfA Auditorium - Manoa

7:00 pm August 19, 2009


2009 is an extraordinary year! Four hundred years after the first scientific study of the sky with a telescope by Galileo, a cultural and scientific milestone, which changed the thinking of humans in a fundamental way- two new revolutionary telescope projects will move forward in Hawaii, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) on Haleakala and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. The talk will inform about the two projects and their key science goals. It will also describe the science which will occur with the TMT.



Free parking readily available in the IfA parking lot
at 2680 Woodlawn Drive.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Visions of the Universe: 4 centuries of Discovery

The Hawaii Library Association
invites you to a special viewing of
Visions of the Universe: 4 centuries of Discovery

In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, this exhibit features major astronomical discoveries highlighting the 400 years since Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609. Hickam AFB Library is one of only 40 libraries nationwide selected to host this important traveling exhibit.

WHERE: Hickam AFB Library, 990 Mills Blvd., Building 595
DATE: Saturday, Aug 29, 2009
TIME: 10-12 noon
WHO: HLA, SLA, IfA, friends and family
COST: Free
REGISTER: Amy Nogami
(Amy.Nogami@us.army.mil or 655-9269)

> NO pass - NO entry <

Send the following info by Aug 14 to
Phyllis.Frenzel@hickam.af.mil or call Phyllis @ 449-8289 with

If you miss this special viewing, there will be a general public viewing September 4 and 5, from 10 AM-6 PM. But, SECURITY PASSES must be requested from Phyllis Frenzel early enough to be received by return mail.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Eclipse Team’s Life on Enewetak

by Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) eclipse team, officially known as the Solar Wind Sherpas, spent a week on Enewetak, in the Marshall Islands, to study the eclipse. (Please see entries below for descriptions of the eclipse, the science, and our trip.) Here are some snapshots of our activities on Enewetak:

Meals were a highlight of the day. The nutritionist at the Wellness Center in the hospital on Majuro planned our meals and sent along one of his cooks, Joni Lang. She served us gourmet dishes of chicken, fresh vegetables, tofu, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, salad, beans, and tuna caught by local residents. Oranges, brown rice, peanut butter, nuts, raisins, tahini dressing, and honey were available at most meals. We drank bottled water and fruit juice. Most of the meat and some of our other food shipped on the boat never reached us.

Cook Joni Lang served us delicious meals. Favorites were a pineapple cake and carrot cookies (so good several asked for the recipe).

European team members agreed that melted cheese is a dietary essential but failed to grasp the love affair Americans have with peanut butter. (Although some Americans talked about giving up peanut butter for a while after eating it three times a day on this trip.)

Our chief engineer, Judd Johnson, re-engineered the coffee machine at our first breakfast. He found a coffee-maker, but it had no carafe or filters. A carafe was essential to release a mechanism that let the coffee drip through. Judd taped the mechanism into position, used a paper towel as a filter, and dripped the coffee into a saucepan. Some team members had brought instant coffee or coffee bags (like tea bags) so that they wouldn’t be caught in the unthinkable circumstance of having no coffee to drink.

Each of us washed our foam plates and plasticware to reuse them and reduce the amount of trash we created.

Five of us survived (well, sort of) a two-hour boat trip across the huge lagoon and back to visit the islet of Runit, where the radiation from the 1940s and 1950s atomic testing was buried after the U.S. cleaned up Enewetak in 1979. The small fishing boat had fish guts floating in the bottom and no real seats. We zigged and zagged between underwater rocks, and twice heard the sickening sound of the outboard motor prop hitting those rocks, fortunately with no major damage. We fried in the sun and got drenched by waves and a squall. As we slammed into swells, I kept my tongue behind my teeth so that I wouldn’t accidentally bite it. The foot and hand cramps from bracing so hard cleared up soon after the trip was over. For the next day or two, though, we wanted to sit on something soft.

The fishing boat we took to Runit, the small one in front, was docked at the beach where many of us swam every day.

While we were on Runit, we checked constantly with Judd as he measured radiation. He found barely more than the usual background radiation. We hiked up a concrete dome that is 9 meters (29 feet) high and 115 meters (374 feet) wide, under which the radioactive materials from the atomic testing are buried in a crater left by one of the bomb blasts. The half-life of the plutonium buried there is 24,000 years.
Most of the vegetation near the dome is dead; the other part of Runit is green. Dozens of birds live here.

The rest of the team took the trip the next day in a larger boat. They were only fried by the intense sun. Even frequent applications of sunblock can’t provide complete protection in this place 11 degrees above the equator.

We swam in the lagoon’s warm, clear water and played Frisbee. One evening we had a fly-swatting contest in the workroom. Dr. Martina Arndt won, with over 50 to her credit.

This shows our sleeping and workroom with some of the equipment packed up after the eclipse.

Grad student Emily Mount taught local children how to play Frisbee--and how to get a Frisbee off a roof.

Many activities that we consider a normal part of everyday life weren’t available to us. Enewetak has no stores, no ATMs, no post office, no high school, no hospital or clinic. It has no phones or faxes, no TV, no Internet. Our group had a satellite phone for emergencies.

Each Enewetak family has a feezer in this warehouse.

Locals raise pigs for food. Before a plane lands, police drive around asking people to get their pigs off the runway and into their pens.

This is a typical scene. The island also has many concrete buildings.

Shortly after arriving I appointed myself plumbing czar and spent a portion of most days dealing with cleanliness and malfunction issues. The second big excitement of eclipse day happened when Dr. Isabelle Scholl walked into the dorm at bedtime. Water was pouring out from her room into the hallway. The toilet tank in her room—the same tank that hadn’t managed to fill automatically for days because the pump malfunctioned—had overflowed. She shut off the water valve and I helped her move her air mattress and personal items into my room. (Her room contained only two thin mats instead of a wooden bed with a standard mattress that other rooms had, so Isabelle used one of the air mattresses we had brought.) European team member Peter Aniol went in search of the maintenance man, since the water was now seeping into his room.

Most of us slept indoors in a room like this, but a few chose to sleep in small tents erected where they had great views of both the lagoon and the ocean.

We gave up expecting anything to be thoroughly dry. The room air-conditioners helped somewhat, but with daily squalls and drizzles and otherwise constant high humidity, everything remained damp. Tossing clothes and towels into the dryer helped for only minutes or hours. I stored my paperback books upright between a wall and a suitcase. Otherwise, the covers curled into tubes.

We accepted the ear-splitting noise of the large generator, because that was the only thing that kept the air-conditioners, scientific instruments, and kitchen appliances running.

We admired the beautiful turquoise, teal, and royal blue colors of the lagoon. We saw rainbows daily. We watched lovely sunrises and sunsets, enjoying the coolness of those times—meaning that the temperature had dropped into the 80s.

Grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation funded this solar research.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Eclipse Team’s Life on Majuro

by Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) eclipse team, officially known as the Solar Wind Sherpas, spent a few days on Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, on either side of our visit to Enewetak to study the eclipse. (Please see entries below for descriptions of the eclipse, the science, and our trip.) Here are some snapshots of our activities on Majuro:

Legs out and arms up, we sailed off a slide into the clear, warm water of the Majuro lagoon—and hoped we wouldn't crash into the person holding the slide’s unanchored and wobbly front posts.

Tiny islets ring Majuro's lagoon. The eclipse team visited two of them for swimming, snorkeling, and tubing.

We snorkeled over beautiful coral and hundreds of colorful fish.

After all the non-stop work we were ready for some relaxation on a couple of afternoons.

We were quite sure our arms were longer after going tubing. A boat pulled two of us lying on a circular rubber raft attached to a long tow line. The raft charges in and out of the boat’s wake as the boat turns and bangs against swells. Riders hang onto two handles but have no control over the raft. This was my first ride, and I frequently had the sensation that I would fly off into space or crash on top of my raft mate, but I managed to stay on the raft for the entire ride. At the end of the ride I slid off the raft and gave a huge grin and a thumbs-up.

We shopped along the island’s main—and only—road, checking out small stores for local handicrafts and purchasing snacks at a well-stocked supermarket. Friendly locals greeted us wherever we walked. When we tired of walking, we took a cab for $1 per person no matter where we were going, although that rate seemed flexible and the cabs had no meters. The nearest McDonald’s and Starbucks are thousands of miles away.

This is a typical scene of central Majuro.

We were intrigued by a combination beauty salon and auto parts store.

One evening on our way to dinner in the hotel restaurant, we heard a noise like a power saw ripping through metal. Some men were butchering a pig, the source of the screams, outside the kitchen door.

We sprawled on a lobby couch or restaurant chair, waiting for an incredibly slow Internet connection over the hotel’s wi-fi service. Team member Mindy Lekberg thought the hotel’s 14-cents-per-minute computer might be faster. It cost her over $3 to send a short e-mail.

We took cold showers our last couple of days on Majuro because drought rules were in effect, and we had only cold water for four hours in the morning and three hours in the evening. The cold was not an entirely unwelcome sensation (except for washing hair) after boiling in hundred-degree temperatures on Enewetak and forgetting what cold felt like.

We discovered the joys of playing with hermit crabs. They housed themselves in a variety of beautiful shells.

Yes, playing with hermit crabs really can be entertaining to a bunch of curious scientists.

We commented on the poverty and trash when we arrived and marveled at how wealthy and clean Majuro looked when we returned from Enewetak.

Grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation funded the solar research.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Eclipse Trip

by Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

Total solar eclipses take place every one to three years but rarely in places convenient to get to. The July 22 eclipse was supposed to be visible over the Shanghai area of China, but most people there didn’t see it due to clouds, rain, and air pollution. The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) team, led by Dr. Shadia Habbal, chose to go to Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where there was a better chance of good weather. Getting there, and back, was an adventure.

On Wednesday, July 15, the IfA team of 11 met a European contingent of seven at Honolulu International at 5:00 a.m. for a Continental flight to Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands. Some of our gear had been shipped ahead, but we carried the essential scientific equipment with us. The scientists would lose an entire year of preparation for collecting data about the Sun’s atmosphere if this equipment didn’t make it to the observing site. This meant careful supervision of the equipment during tagging and security checks, plus visual observation of the cases and bags being loaded onto the plane. No one really cared about personal luggage. The eclipse certainly wouldn’t care what we were wearing or how we looked.

After a five-hour flight, we landed in Majuro on Thursday and trooped down metal stairs onto the tarmac. The country is across the dateline, so it was the next day and two hours earlier local time. (Noon on Wednesday in Honolulu is 10:00 a.m. on Thursday in the Marshall Islands.) Team member Dr. Huw Morgan had already made friends with the co-pilot, and the two of them made sure all our equipment was unloaded before the plane took off for another island nation.

An ancient bus, with small suitcases and carry-on bags piled floor to ceiling behind the driver, delivered us to the Marshall Islands Resort. We calculated that if the driver stopped suddenly, the luggage would fall onto him, not us. Most things in our rooms worked, the pillow was decorated with flowers and a shell necklace, and balconies overlooked the lagoon. The hotel restaurant served good food, as did a couple of other restaurants.

We looked back on the Marshall Islands Resort as we boated across the lagoon.

Getting to Enewetak was the real challenge. Plan A was to fly on the Air Marshall Islands Dash-8, a small prop plane. The Marshallese call this airline Air Maybe. The plane had recently experienced a major mechanical problem that required shipping the engine to the U.S. mainland for repair, so we were never sure we would make it to Enewetak until we landed there. We knew the engine was shipped out on the Continental flight two days before we left Honolulu, so we were hopeful. We were more hopeful for a Saturday departure after the plane passed the test flight on Friday afternoon.

The original Plan B was to take the boat, a 44-hour trip. However, at the last minute the boat company informed Shadia that the boat was leaving for Enewetak on July 13. A chief had died in Kona about a month before (more Enewetakians live on the Big Island than on Enewetak), but now it was essential to return his body to Enewetak as speedily as possible. The boat wouldn’t wait for us, and we couldn’t possibly get to Majuro by the 13th. Scratch Plan B.

Plan C was to enlist the help of the U.S. military, which has a base on Kwajalein Atoll. Shadia located the name of the officer to contact, but he replied that the military couldn’t help due to concerns about the runway and other risks. The motto below his signature said “Attitude is everything.” Scratch Plan C.

So we showed up at the Majuro airport Saturday morning before 5:30 a.m. and boarded the Dash-8 after no ID or security checks. We stopped briefly in Kwajalein to take on more fuel and landed on Enewetak about four hours after leaving Majuro. The runway showed signs of having been paved once. It had no lights or tower, not even a windsock.

We landed on this runway on Enewetak Atoll.

Much of the Enewetak community of about 250 people turned out to greet us with lei and chilled coconuts with the tops lopped off so that we could drink the sweet, clear liquid. The police chief supervised the unloading of our baggage into pickup trucks. The assistant mayor gave a welcoming speech. (The mayor was on Majuro.) We boarded a colorful jitney to drive down the runway and along the atoll’s only road, which had pavement here and there, to the Lawrence Livermore Radiological Laboratory facilities, where we stayed.

The Enewetak community greeted us as we deplaned from the Dash-8.

We stood in front of the airport terminal drinking from coconuts.

This jitney carted us and our luggage around the island.

Enewetak was the site of U.S. nuclear testing in the 1940s and 1950s. The U.S. cleaned up the atoll in 1979, but radiation level monitoring continues. Eclipse team member Judd Johnson constantly monitored our exposure and found little more than the usual background radiation.

This building contained a kitchen, laundry facilities, bathrooms, and a workroom with half a dozen beds spread around the periphery.

This dormitory contained single and double rooms and bathrooms.

On Monday morning we spent a couple of hours sitting on the airport terminal lanai, with temperatures just below 100 and periodic rain, waiting for the plane to arrive with more food for us. We didn’t go inside the tiny terminal because an anthropologist from Montana State and two of his students were living there for the summer. The plane never arrived. It had taken off but developed an oil leak and returned to Majuro. Now that we were here, we wondered if we would ever get off this atoll.

Although we still didn’t know if the plane would show up the following Saturday to take us back to Majuro, we checked in for the flight on Friday afternoon, using the floor of our workroom as a ticket counter. We weighed ourselves and our carry-on bags, wrote our names and the weights in a notebook, placed our handwritten ticket in a pile on the floor, checked off our names in the book, and took a tag to attach to bags to be loaded into the plane's baggage compartment. The tag was so short that we could barely get it stapled around handles, and we had to tape it to some containers.

On Saturday morning the assistant mayor received word via radio that the plane had taken off from Majuro. Estimated arrival time was 10:45 to 11:15. We loaded up luggage and ourselves in the rain and took off for the airport. The plane touched down at 11:18, the next best sight after the eclipse.

Whether the plane could take off was debatable. Shadia had purchased every seat on the plane so that we could transport our heavy equipment without topping the weight limit. We left some items in Majuro that we deemed non-essential, because we were over the stated weight limit.

After our group dashed through the rain to board the plane, local residents proceeded to board, filling every seat, including the jumpseat in the cockpit, with a couple of people left standing in the aisle. Judd, who is a pilot himself, had a lengthy discussion with the plane’s captain. Finally, two people got off the plane, and—with great hope that the weight numbers showing that we were just at maximum gross weren’t fudged too much—we managed to lift off in the downpour and not plunge into the ocean at the end of the runway.

We landed in Majuro in pouring rain and were given umbrellas at the bottom of the stairs. By the time we got to the terminal, we were drenched anyway, whether from rain or sweat from the mid-day heat we weren’t sure.

The rain was good for Majuro, though. The major source of fresh water is the runoff from the runway that goes into a catchment system. When we returned to the Marshall Islands Resort, we found out that drought rules were in place. We had water for four hours in the morning and three hours in the evening, all of it cold.

We left for home on the Continental flight on Monday, July 27 (Sunday, July 26, in Honolulu). Check-in took an hour and a half, since all checked luggage was searched by hand. The person at the ticket counter checked our passports, but we didn’t need to show a ticket or flight information. There was only one plane leaving that evening. We arrived in Honolulu at 2:30 a.m., ready to begin our second Monday this week.

Grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation funded the solar research done on this trip.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Science Conducted by the Institute for Astronomy Eclipse Team

by Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

The Sun is so powerfully bright that the best time to study details of the Sun’s atmosphere—especially the part of the atmosphere closest to the Sun—is during a total eclipse, when the Moon blocks the intense sunlight. We know remarkably little about this nuclear reactor that makes life possible on Earth. Particles streaming out from the Sun can disrupt communications and GPS devices here on Earth, cause power surges, and put astronauts at risk. The more we learn, the more we can ameliorate these disruptions and risks.

Scientists generally begin planning for the next eclipse immediately after the previous one is over. Deciding what to study and determining the equipment needed to do the studies—and remember that all the equipment needs to be transportable to the viewing site—is time-consuming. All experiments must proceed flawlessly, since scientists have only minutes to acquire the data they need to do their research.

The eclipse on July 22 was the longest one this century. On Enewetak, an atoll in the Marshall Islands, we had five minutes and forty seconds of totality. However, only about 50% to 70% of the data are good because clouds moved across the Sun in the middle of totality. What data we did get will take weeks or months to analyze. Added to data collected during previous and future eclipses, scientists are slowly filling in missing pieces of the puzzle that is the Sun’s atmosphere.

Data collected during this eclipse primarily concerned looking at ionizations of iron and helium, taking spectra, and obtaining infrared data. Technology has only recently become advanced enough to study the corona in infrared, so we have very little data so far in that area. (Watch the IfA website for an announcement about team leader Dr. Shadia Habbal’s public talk, currently scheduled for early November, when some data analysis will have been done.)

The weeks before the eclipse trip involved non-stop equipment maintenance and calibration, the writing and refinement of observing programs, and the writing of scripts for equipment operators to follow. A few days before leaving we held a dress rehearsal. We set up the main observing tent in the IfA courtyard, moved in all the equipment, and then figured out how six people could run instruments and computers without tripping over one another or the tripods and cords—and without jiggling any of the instruments. Jiggle is the absolute enemy for obtaining good data.

The observing tents were off-the-shelf camping models modified by team engineer Judd Johnson for observing needs. In the larger tent he installed a clear plastic roof window using a zipper made for Jeep windows. He also made an opening to hold an air-conditioner, plus some other modifications that he managed to do on a standard sewing machine. Tripods with single mounts holding up to three instruments were lined up along the roof window.

IfA Eclipse Team

Team members, officially known as the Solar Wind Sherpas, posed by the main observing tent. Standing: Judd Johnson (left), Dr. Shadia Habbal, Dr. Adalbert Ding, Dr. Martina Arndt, Mindy Lekberg, Joni Lang (cook). Seated: Dr. Huw Morgan, Dr. Isabelle Scholl, Emily Mount, Bev Lynn-Wilson, Dr. Dave Harrington, Sarah Jaeggli.

The instrument filters required a constant temperature of 45C. They were inserted into protective housings, and the main use of the air-conditioner was to keep the filters at the temperature they needed. IfA grad student Sarah Jaeggli and post-doc Dave Harrington observed from the smaller tent, also with a viewing window installed. Sarah’s instruments didn’t require a constant temperature, so Sarah and Dave worked in the heat, about 100F in the outside shade for most of the daylight hours and hotter inside the tent.

Sarah's observing tent

Sarah prepares her equipment in the smaller observing tent.

Covering the tops of the tents with space blankets helped to reflect some of the heat and lower the temperatures in the tents. Shadia, Mindy Lekberg, a high school chemistry teacher associated with Haystack Observatory, and I spent a morning stapling and tying blankets together to make large enough blankets to cover the tops of the tents. In places where wind tended to lift the blankets off the tents, we used binder clips to anchor them to the tent walls.

Assembling space blankets

Shadia and Mindy create one large space blanket.

Once the tents and instruments were in place, observers spent more time practicing and refining movements. Observers needed to develop a light touch on the instruments as they adjusted positions of polarizers, filters, and occulters so that nothing jiggled. They also had to coordinate movements with the other person using an instrument on the same mount.

Mindy and equipment

Mindy rehearses her observing program.

In addition to working the instruments, observers also had to use laptop computers. Dr. Isabelle Scholl wrote a program that showed the observers what to do next and automatically ran the experiments. This was all timed down to the second. Observers wore the laptops encased in custom-designed cardboard holders that held the computers at waist height (or wherever the computer fit best between instruments and people) with cords looped around the neck.

Laptop holder

Shadia operates her laptop in the customized cardboard holder.

During totality no one spoke so as not to break another person’s concentration. Each observer had only one chance to get it right. I was so astounded by the beauty and wonder of the eclipse that I would have shouted with joy if the observers hadn’t needed quiet. I was outside answering questions and showing local residents and the cook we had brought from Majuro how to use the observing glasses. Most locals remained in their houses during the eclipse, even though we distributed observing glasses to all the families.

The European group set up a tent of the type used for lawn parties. They had one gigantic mount that held multiple cameras. In the days before the eclipse the extreme humidity caused the mount to malfunction. Peter Aniol jerry-rigged my hair dryer onto the mount to dry it out. (I never did use the dryer for my hair. The main reason I brought it was my previous experience of needing to dry out my camera in heavy humidity and rain.)

Drying the mount

Peter taped a hair dryer into the mount to dry it out.

Dr. Martina Arndt used her computer to monitor temperature, illumination, and UV exposure for the entire week. UV dropped a few minutes before totality and remained depressed until a few minutes after totality. Temperature and illumination dropped almost instantly at totality and went back up as soon as totality was over. The temperature dropped eight degrees to a relatively cool 88F. To keep the probe in the shade, Martina constructed a shelter out of cardboard boxes that had held some of our food and juice packs. Budget cuts force scientists to get creative.

Weather probe

A sheltered probe connected to a computer inside the door monitored temperature, illumination, and UV.

For more information about the Sun for teachers and children, please see the NASA site for children.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the Marshall Islands. Grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation funded this solar research.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Eclipse As Viewed from Enewetak

by Beverly Lynn-Wilson
Member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy

The diamond ring flashed, and in an instant the Moon covered the Sun entirely and extinguished the light. After waiting for well over an hour for an imperceptibly slow moving Moon to eat away the Sun, darkness came so quickly that my brain barely had time to register what I had seen: tiny blips of light called Bailey’s Beads forming a very narrow band encircling the Sun, and then on the right side of the Sun, near the top, a last handful of bright light glowing like a diamond.

The diamond ring effect, also visible as the Sun returns (photo by Dr. Isabelle Scholl).

Darkness descended at 3:28 p.m. The temperature dropped. For five minutes and 40 seconds, it was not daytime, but neither did it look entirely like night. A yellow-white Venus shimmered low in the western sky and a few stars appeared, much as you see after sunset as twilight deepens, but during totality the sky was not quite the right shade of blue. This sky had more royal mixed in with the indigo, making it a little brighter. Under the blue, along the western horizon, the sky was lighter, an orangey-yellow tone. The ocean I was looking over, on the other hand, changed from royal blue to the indigo of the usual twilight, as if somehow the darkening of the Sun had turned the world upside down.

The corona visible during totality.

In contrast to the soft colors and the sharp shadows around me, the Sun looked starkly black with the bright silvery white lion’s mane of the corona now visible. The body of the Sun is so bright that you can see the corona, the Sun’s atmosphere, only during an eclipse. These are the photos of eclipses you typically see, but they don’t begin to capture the dramatic contrast with your surroundings or the shimmer and dance of the corona’s lines.

As suddenly as totality began, a tiny globule of Sun reappeared, as if someone had flipped on a switch, and the light returned. During an eclipse there is almost no perceptible dimming or lightening. As long as the minutest particle of the Sun remains visible, it’s light. When the Moon covers the Sun, it’s dark.

The crescent Sun, as it looks before and after totality.

The globule grew to a thin crescent and then a fat crescent, looking like phases of the Moon. In an hour and 20 minutes the entire Sun was back. This was the first total eclipse I have witnessed, after two failed attempts due to bad weather. I’m hooked!

Stay tuned for further adventures of the UH Institute for Astronomy eclipse team, whose research was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eclipse expedition talk Wednesday 12:30 IfA Manoa auditorium

Karen Ehrhorn has posted this for Shadia Habbal, expedition leader-

Shadia and her eclipse Team return to Honolulu on Sunday. Before many of the team leave honolulu to return home, the Team would like to give a presentation on the eclipse expedition on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 12:30 in the IfA Manoa auditorium. As some may know, the team went to Enewetak Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands to view the eclipse. To whet your appetite for the presentation, following are excerpts from the limited reports received from the team over the last week-

Thursday's message: Everyone is happy with the experiments, and though there were a few clouds, most of totality was fully visible from their location. It appears that the selection of viewing location was optimal, since, according to Associated Press reports, in most of China (where many people went to view the eclipse) clouds, drizzle, rain, and smog obscured the view. Today, a small group taking a boat to Runit island to view the large concrete cap placed over the soil and waste cleaned up from the islands. Temperatures have reached 42 C during the day.

2nd day in Majuro message: I will never complain about slow internet again. I will never complain about slow internet again. I will NEVER complain about slow interenet again!!!!

1st message about the accommodations on Enewetak
: The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has donated space at the whole-body radiation counting facility they have constructed as part of the cleanup of the Marshall Islands. All of the food and water for the group was brought in from outside the island, so exposure to bio-accumulated radionuclides in local produce and water should be minimal.

Satellite Passes Tonight!

This from Ben Honey (West Hawaii Astronomy Club), forwarded by Gary Fujihara (IfA Outreach):

Tonight is an excellent opportunity to view 3 of the biggest 'satellites' in orbit right now! Endeavour will be undocking from the space station today in under 4 hours and will be slowly moving away throughout the day. This means that after dusk tonight there will be an opportunity to see both objects 'chase' each other over head. From a vantage point in Hawaii:

Look low in the Northwest at 8:52 PM. The space shuttle Endeavour will appear first. A few seconds later the ISS will become visible, brighter and chasing right behind. The pass will be brief, only about a minute, and will not get very high in the sky as the spacecraft move more northward. Therfore, make sure your view of the Northwest is unobstructed! Fortunately for me, my viewing from here in Houston - two orbits earlier - will be better with a pass almost overhead.

But that's not all! Right now a Russian Progress resupply vessel (unmanned) is chasing the Space Station from behind, to dock tomorrow. People with sharp eyes should be able to spot the Progress following approximately the same orbital track 5-7 minutes after ISS is no longer visible. The Progress is significantly smaller than the space shuttle, and thus will be dimmer. Don't be surprised if it is very hard to pick out!

You can go to Heavens Above to get this kind of prediction information by making a free account and entering your Lat/Long coordinates (however, heavens-above does not have predictions for the Progress vessel).

The NASA website SkyWatch is easy to navigate and can help you find out when to view vehicles passing over your area. I believe it includes the Progress:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TMT & an Eclipse glimpsed

Yesterday was a red letter day for astronomy in Hawaii!
Two events brought much joy:

Mauna Kea has been selected as the site for the Thirty Meter Telescope. The TMT project is an international partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, ACURA (an organization of Canadian universities), and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

Even though yesterday's eclipse track covered only about 10% of the Sun's surface as seen in Hawaii nei, a sidewalk astronomy outreach event, staged by Institute for Astronomy (IfA) Manoa's faculty and grads, drew interested crowds at Magic Island. Check out the Honolulu-Advertiser write up & photos of the event.

A team of solar researchers from IfA traveled to the Marshall Islands to study the eclipse. We hope they had good seeing and look forward to their photos & reports.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 1969: 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 Moonwalk

July 20, 1969:
the day human first set foot on another world, our Earth's own Moon.

Honoring this 40th anniversary, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day features an image of that event. Click on the image to see the NASA archives original and compare it to this 2009 digital restoration.

And, there's a link to a series of Apollo 11 Partial Restoration HD Video Streams. NASA has posted the first of these "One Small Step" on YouTube, as a sample.

Guinness World Records lists the audience for the first Apollo walk on the moon as the largest ever for a space event, noting it "...was watched on TV by an estimated 600 million people, a fifth of the world's population at the time."

Can you remember that event? Where were you when it occurred?

Enjoy this anniversary as we celebrate the second half of this International Year of Astronomy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mauna Kea Observatories lead off "100 Hours of Astronomy"

As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, "100 Hours of Astronomy" is offering a 24-hour live webcast from the control rooms of 80 professional observatories around the world.

The live webcast will start off at 11pm Hawaii Standard Time [HST] on 2 April, with the Mauna Kea Observatories being the first to show the worldwide public a glimpse into the control room of a working observatory. All observatories will introduce themselves via a 5-minute video, followed by a 10-minute live conversation with the observers in the control room. During this time they will introduce a new image from each observatory that has not been publicly seen before.

Here are the scheduled times for the Mauna Kea Observatories.

Date. . . . HTS . . . . . . . Observatory
Apr 2 . . 11:00pm . . . . . . .Gemini Observatory
Apr 2 . . 11:20pm . . . . . . .Subaru Telescope, Nat'l Observ of Japan
Apr 2 . . 11:40pm . . . . . . United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT)
Apr 3 . . 00:00am [midnite] . .W.M. Keck Observatory
Apr 3 . . 00:20am . . . . . . .James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT)
Apr 3 . . 00:40am . . . . . . .Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT)
Apr 3 . . 01:00am . . . . . . .Smithsonian Submillimeter Array (SMA)
Apr 3 . . 01:20am . . . . . . .Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

View the webcast at "Around the World in 80 Telescopes".

For more information on the outreach activities of the Mauna Kea Observatories, please go to the MKOOC Website.

Paraphrased and quoted from press release issued by:
Inge Heyer
Chair, Mauna Kea Observatories Outreach Committee
Email: outreach@jach.hawaii.edu
Tel: +1 808 969 6524

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sun 5 April: IfA Manoa Open House 2009

Join us for the events and activities scheduled for the IfA Manoa Open House 2009

University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy
Sunday, April 5, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Free admission and parking
UH Institute for Astronomy
2680 Woodlawn Drive, Mānoa

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Look Up!" Astronomy Night @ WCC on April 4, 7-9 p.m.

Get to know your universe at Windward Community College's "Look Up!" event on Saturday, April 4, from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Sponsored by WCC's Center for Aerospace Education, this fun astronomy event for all ages will include a variety of free or low-cost astronomy-related activities (see list below). Activities will be held on the WCC campus, in and around the Imaginarium, 'Imiloa building and Lanihuli Observatory (map: http://windward.hawaii.edu/About_WCC/Campus_Map.html). "Look Up!" will take place regardless of the weather. Food will be available at the Starlight Cafe.

"Look Up!" is part of the International Year of Astronomy's "100 Hours of Astronomy" cornerstone project. "100 Hours of Astronomy"is a worldwide event that seeks to have as many people as possible look through a telescope as Galileo did for the first time 400 years ago. For 100 hours during the weekend of April 2-5, someone somewhere in the world will be looking through a telescope. WCC's "Look Up!" event represents Hawaii in this global event for two of the 100 hours.

Imaginarium “Stargazing” Shows
A live star show held inside the Imaginarium that identifies the constellations, planets and moon phases visible in the night sky. Tickets available at the Imaginarium box office for $2/person. Showtimes: 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 p.m.
Telescope Viewing with Hawaii Astronomical Society
Gaze at the moon and Saturn through the HAS members’ telescopes (weather permitting).
Storytelling with Emil Wolfgramm
Enjoy Polynesian stories of the stars by master storyteller Emil Wolfgramm. Showtime: 7:00-7:45 p.m.
Make-&-Take Telescope Workshop
Construct and use a working refracting telescope (similar to the one Galileo used 400 years ago) to take home with you. Cost: $2/telescope, while supplies last.
Lanihuli Observatory
Visit a working research and educational observatory that includes a radio telescope, heliostat (solar) telescope, cosmic ray telescope and 16-inch optical telescope. Optical telescope viewing, weather permitting.
Faulkes Telescope
Remotely operate UH Institute for Astronomy’s Faulkes Telescope, located on Haleakala, Maui (weather permitting).
NASA Flight Training Center AEL
Pilot NASA’s space shuttle with a virtual reality simulator and explore microgravity environments through interactive computer stations.
Aerospace Exploration Lab
Explore science concepts through hands-on activities designed especially for children in grades K-6.
Bishop Museum
Make a "Lahaina Noon" flip book to investigate the zenith passage of the sun in Hawaii.

Ironwood Observatory
An introduction to remote astro imaging using an off-grid, unattended Internet controlled observatory. Showtime: 8:15-9:00 p.m.
Film: Eyes on the Skies
Learn about the historical development of the telescope, its scientific importance, technological breakthroughs, and the people behind this ground-breaking invention.
Kids in Technology
Explore how astronauts blast off into space through bottle rocket demonstrations.
Starlight Café
Enjoy astronomically good food at this way-out café. Prices vary.

This invitation issued by Nancy Alima Ali, Imaginarium Manager, WCC

Monday, February 23, 2009

Copernicus: the latest sighting

from the magazine ARCHAEOLOGY, March/April 2009:

“POLAND: Until now, no one knew for certain what happened to the remains of Nicolas Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer who proclaimed that the earth revolves around the sun. Scientists have solved the mystery--they matched DNA from a skeleton, found in a cathedral in 2005, with DNA from hair taken from Copernicus's copy of Johannes Stoeffler's Calendarium Romanum Magnum.
A facial reconstruction based on the skull bears a convincing likeness to portraits of the heretical scientist, from the scar above his eye to his crooked nose. “

To see a photo of the reconstruction go to ‘World Roundup’ [Patel, S. 2009: 62 (2): 11]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday night 'two-for' special at WCC Imaginarium & Observatory

Tonight Friday February 20, two special events will occur:
from 7pm – 8pm
the Hokulani Imaginarium at Windward Community College
Cosmic Perceptions takes the Imaginarium audience on a journey across the seas of time and space--from Stonehenge to the Hubble Space Telescope. Learn how we observe and perceive nature by taking an imaginary flight on a beam of light into the human eye, down the optic nerve and across the neurons in our brain.Cosmic Perceptions also tells the story of how astronomers are expanding our knowledge of the heavens with new and more powerful telescopes.Through the use of the Imaginarium's interactive response system, audience members will get a chance to challenge their own understanding of the Cosmos.

Tickets may be purchased at the Imaginarium box office 30 minutes before the show, or call 235-7433 to reserve tickets in advance. [
$3 for children (12 and under); $4 for UH students, military or seniors (65+); $5 for adults]

followed 8pm-9pm by: NASA Great Observatories Images
at the Lanihuli Observatory [Windward Community College]
A special unveiling of spectacular, multiwavelength images of our universe taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Cost: Free

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You'll be able to see the ISS tonight & tomorrow from Hawai'i. If you check out the Heavens Above website, you can see the times it will pass overhead and the magnitude:


You can really see it at 6:56 on Friday.

You can also use Heavens Above to find Iridium flares, which are also cool.

Thanks to Richard Wainscoat for the reminder e-mail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Google Calendar & Today's APOD

Joe Masiero was nice enough to create a google calendar for IYA events in Hawai'i. If you use google calendars, look for the "Hawaii IYA 2009 Calendar."

Now, check out today's APOD:

That's Haleakala crater in the foreground, with Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa way off in the distance.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Impromptu Public Stargazing @ Magic Island

As per the last post we had our first "Sidewalk Astronomy" style event. We went down to Magic Island around sunset on MLK day and set up the 6 dobsonians.

We had quite a few folks walk by and look through the telescopes, ~150 people checked us and the telescopes out and got to look at a quarter Venus, the Pleiades, the Orion nebula and more.

Turns out even with city lights, the stars are still pretty good and lots of folks wanted to see us again. Next time we'll go when the moon is up, since that's always a fun target!

Thanks to Sarah J (also the picture taker), Geoff, Joe, Kirsten, Jenny and Geoff's pal Sean.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stargazing @ Ala Moana?

We're going to try to bring out a couple of the 8" dobs this evening around sunset in the Magic Island/Ala Moana vicinity, for high traffic, bright sky astronomy fun.

See you there!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Awesome APOD video

This was two weeks ago, but if you didn't watch the awesome time-lapse video for the new year's eve APOD check it out:

Via: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap081231.html


NSF has put out a press release about IYA:


They included a bunch of relevant links:
National Optical Astronomy Observatory: http://www.noao.edu/
Dark Skies Awarenss Program: http://www.darkskiesawareness.org/
International Year of Astronomy, US Node: http://astronomy2009.us/
International Year of Astronomy (with video): http://www.astronomy2009.org/
The Galileoscope: Millions Looking at the Stars:
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 Opening Ceremony Press
Release: http://astronomy2009.org/news/pressreleases/detail/iya0901/

400 Years of the Telescope: http://www.400years.org/
400 Years of the Telescope on YouTube:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

University of Hawaii Astronomers Unveil Planet Location Technology

U.H. Astronomers have developed a technology making it easier to find Earth-like planets in neighboring solar systems. John Johnson, IfA researcher presented the findings at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, California. Hawaii Public Radio's Ben Markus reports in this 3:06 minute podcast that aired Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

IYA Student Ambassadorship

I have been selected as the IYA Student Ambassador for Hawai'i. I am also currently the Coordinator for the Graduate Student Educational & Public Outreach Committee (GEPOC), a volunteer body at the UH Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA), founded by Joe Masiero. I have been participating in public events in Hawai'i for over three years, since my first week as a grad student at the IfA.

We currently provide several programs to help spread knowledge and interest in astronomy to the public completely through volunteer efforts. These include Starlab planetarium shows, public talks, interactive activities for students from elementary to college level, stargazing sessions, yearly open houses and more. A list of public outreach events that graduate students have coordinated and participated in is available at the GEPOC webpage, http://ifa.hawaii.edu/gepoc/ These public outreach events are a great way to let people know about IYA and NASA's work, and they are entirely student coordinated and run.

We are hoping to take our outreach activities to the neighboring islands in the year to come and I plan to use the funds from the IYA Student Ambassador grant to facilitate that. There has already been discussion about providing activities and talks for students on Kaua'i, something that has never been done in the past. It is especially important in the state of Hawai`i to spread excitement for Astronomy, as it is an integral part of the state's economy.

Currently, much of what we do is provided at the request of the local community, such as schools, community groups, museums, etc. I would like to take a more active role in informing the public about IYA by coming up with new events in addition to our usual outreach. We have had passers-by take great interest at planned stargazing events for local groups, so I would like to provide impromptu public stargazing sessions as a way to let people know about IYA and what we do locally at the IfA.

We already have the framework for informing community members and students from elementary to graduate school about IYA. I will continue to work to provide outreach opportunities with other graduate students over the course of my career in Hawai'i and beyond, and I look forward to IYA as an opportunity to increase public awareness of the world of Astronomy and NASA.

I also plan to stress the importance of public outreach to faculty, students and other members of the Astronomical community, especially in the upcoming year. I personally feel that it is important to make sure the public (our employer!) stays informed about what we do as Astronomers, why Astronomy is cool and exciting, how to pursue a career in sciences and technology and what the future will bring.