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  • richardmitnick 3:10 pm on May 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Hawaii   

    From U Hawaii: “Probability of Aleutians mega-earthquake estimated” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    May 13, 2016
    Marcie Grabowski

    1
    The map showing the Aleutians with respect to Hawaiʻi. The red and yellow arcs indicate the sections of the Aleutian subduction zones considered in the probability analysis. Stars and dates indicate epicenters of prior 20th century great earthquakes (Mw > 8). (credit: Butler et al., 2016)

    A team of researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa published* a study this week that estimated the probability of a magnitude 9+ earthquake in the Aleutian Islands—an event with sufficient power to create a mega-tsunami especially threatening to Hawaiʻi. In the next 50 years, they report, there is a 9 percent chance of such an event. An earlier State of Hawaiʻi report (PDF) (Table 6.12) has estimated the damage from such an event would be nearly $40 billion, with more than 300,000 people affected.

    Earth’s crust is composed of numerous rocky plates. An earthquake occurs when two sections of crust suddenly slip past one another. The surface where they slip is called the fault, and the system of faults comprises a subduction zone. Hawaiʻi is especially vulnerable to a tsunami created by an earthquake in the subduction zone of the Aleutian Islands.

    Back to basics

    “Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Rhett Butler, lead author and geophysicist at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). “Having no recorded history of mega tsunamis in Hawaiʻi, and given the tsunami threat to Hawaiʻi, we devised a model for magnitude 9 earthquake rates following upon the insightful work of David Burbidge** and others.”

    Butler and co-authors Neil Frazer (SOEST) and William Templeton (now at Portland State University) created a numerical model based only upon the basics of plate tectonics: fault length and plate convergence rate, handling uncertainties in the data with Bayesian techniques.

    Using the past to inform the future

    To validate this model, the researchers utilized recorded histories and seismic/tsunami evidence related to the 5 largest earthquakes (greater than magnitude 9) since 1900 (Tohoku, 2011; Sumatra-Andaman, 2004; Alaska, 1964; Chile, 1960 and Kamchatka, 1952).

    “These five events represent half of the seismic energy that has been released globally since 1900,” said Butler. “The events differed in details, but all of them generated great tsunamis that caused enormous destruction.”

    To further refine the probability estimates, they took into account past (prior to recorded history) tsunamis—evidence of which is preserved in geological layers in coastal sediments, volcanic tephras, and archeological sites.

    “We were surprised and pleased to see how well the model actually fit the paleotsunami data,” said Butler.

    Mitigating the risk

    Using the probability of occurrence, the researchers were able to annualize the risk. They report the chance of a magnitude 9 earthquake in the greater Aleutians is 9 percent ± 3 percent in the next 50 years. Hence the risk is 9 percent of $40 billion, or $3.6 billion. Annualized, this risk is about $72 million per year. Considering a worst-case location for Hawaiʻi limited to the Eastern Aleutian Islands, the chances are about 3.5 percent in the next 50 years, or about $30 million annualized risk. In making decisions regarding mitigation against this $30-$72 million risk, the state can now prioritize this hazard with other threats and needs.

    The team is now considering ways to extend the analysis to smaller earthquakes, magnitude 7–8, around the Pacific.

    1
    The only well-documented paleotsunami deposit in Hawaiʻi from the 16th century is on Kauaʻi. The Makauwahi sinkhole, on the side of a hardened sand dune, is viewed toward the southeast from an apparent altitude of 342 m. Inset photos show two of the wall edges, indicating the edges of the sinkhole. The east wall, left, is 7.2 m above mean sea level and about 100 m from the ocean. Note for scale the people in the right image. (photo credits: R. Butler, left, Gerard Fryer, right, GoogleMaps, background and figure from Butler et al., 2014)

    *Science paper:
    Bayesian Probabilities for Mw 9.0+ Earthquakes in the Aleutian Islands from a Regionally Scaled Global Rate

    **Science paper:
    A Probabilistic Tsunami Hazard Assessment for Western Australia

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:10 pm on November 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Hawaii,   

    From U Hawaii: “UH Researchers Shed New Light on the Origins of Earth’s Water” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    12 November 2015
    Dr. Lydia Hallis
    Lydia.Hallis@glasgow.ac.uk
    cell: +44 (0)7709585622

    Dr. Karen Meech
    meech@ifa.hawaii.edu
    
+1 808-956-6828
    cell: +1 720-231-7048

    Dr. Roy Gal
    Media Contact
    +1 808-956-6235
    cell: +1 301-728-8637
    rgal@ifa.hawaii.edu

    1
    Scanning electron microscope image of a Baffin Island picrite (type of basaltic rock). The mineral olivine, shown as abundant mid-gray color cracked grains (A), hosts glassy melt inclusions (B) containing tiny amounts of water sourced from Earth’s deep mantle. Image by Lydia J. Hallis.

    Water covers more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface, but its exact origins are still something of a mystery. Scientists have long been uncertain whether water was present at the formation of the planet, or if it arrived later, perhaps carried by comets and meteorites.

    Now researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, using advanced ion-microprobe instrumentation, have found that rocks from Baffin Island in Canada contain evidence that Earth’s water was a part of our planet from the beginning. Their research is published in the 13 November issue of the journal Science.

    The research team was led by cosmochemist Dr. Lydia Hallis, then a postdoctoral fellow at the UH NASA Astrobiology Institute (UHNAI) and now Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

    The ion microprobe allowed researchers to focus on minute pockets of glass inside these scientifically important rocks, and to detect the tiny amounts of water within. The ratio of hydrogen to deuterium in the water provided them with valuable new clues as to its origins.

    Hydrogen has an atomic mass of one, while deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen also known as “heavy hydrogen,” has an atomic mass of two. Scientists have discovered that water from different types of planetary bodies in our solar system have distinct hydrogen to deuterium ratios.

    Dr. Hallis explained, “The Baffin Island rocks were collected back in 1985, and scientists have had a lot of time to analyze them in the intervening years. As a result of their efforts, we know that they contain a component from Earth’s deep mantle.

    “On their way to the surface, these rocks were never affected by sedimentary input from crustal rocks, and previous research shows their source region has remained untouched since Earth’s formation. Essentially, they are some of the most primitive rocks we’ve ever found on Earth’s surface, and so the water they contain gives us an invaluable insight into Earth’s early history and where its water came from.

    “We found that the water had very little deuterium, which strongly suggests that it was not carried to Earth after it had formed and cooled. Instead, water molecules were likely carried on the dust that existed in a disk around our Sun before the planets formed. Over time this water-rich dust was slowly drawn together to form our planet.

    “Even though a good deal of water would have been lost at the surface through evaporation in the heat of the formation process, enough survived to form the world’s water.

    “It’s an exciting discovery, and one which we simply didn’t have the technology to make just a few years ago. We’re looking forward to further research in this area in the future.”

    The paper is entitled Evidence for primordial water in Earth’s deep mantle. UH co-authors are Dr. Gary Huss, Dr. Kazuhide Nagashima, Prof. G. Jeffrey Taylor, Prof. Mike Mottl, and Dr. Karen Meech.

    The research was funded by the University of Hawaii NASA Astrobiology Institute under Cooperative Agreement No. NNA09-DA77A.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:11 pm on September 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Hawaii, Undersea Exploration   

    From NYT: “Do Humans Have a Future in Deep Sea Exploration?” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    SEPT. 14, 2015
    CHRIS DIXON

    1
    Terry Kerby, the head of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, peers through the porthole of a Pisces V research submarine. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

    Entering the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory hangar is akin to stepping onto the set of a Spielberg film. The dull metal shell, perched on the Makai pier along the Windward Coast of Oahu, is nondescript, but the inside bristles with Zodiac boats and a dizzying assortment of hoists and tools, and the walls are festooned with 30 years of snapshots. At the center of it all, two 20-foot-long Pisces submarines sit atop skids like alien spacecraft, their robotic arms outstretched, beckoning for another mission.

    The laboratory, part of the University of Hawaii and better known as HURL, has been the sole submersible-based United States deep-sea research outpost in the mid-Pacific since the 1980s.

    U Hawaii Undersea Research Lab - HURL

    U Hawaii bloc

    At its helm is Terry Kerby, perhaps the most experienced submersible pilot alive. With a crew of five, Mr. Kerby and the Pisces subs have discovered more than 140 wrecks and artifacts, recovered tens of millions of dollars in lost scientific equipment, and surveyed atolls and seamounts whose hydrothermal vents and volcanoes were unknown.

    Temp 1
    The Pisces IV and Pisces V research submarines could soon be mothballed. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

    “It’s very unusual to have a facility that large and well-equipped in the middle of a large ocean basin,” said Robert Dunbar, a Stanford oceanographer. “They’ve done a remarkable thing over there, largely due to Terry’s expertise.”

    But today, Mr. Kerby faces the possible mothballing of his fleet. The forces at play are the same as in many other realms of science — dwindling budgets, of course. And robots.

    Robotic subs can stay down for days and reach extraordinary depths, instantly relaying their finds to scientists and an Internet-connected global audience. But they cannot go everywhere, and many scientists argue that studying the deep without direct human observation yields at best an incomplete understanding.

    “You can’t replace a Terry Kerby with a robot,” said Andy Bowen, principal engineer at Woods Hole. “It’s not possible.”

    At 65, Mr. Kerby is tanned and fit, thanks to daily two-mile ocean swims. He has been piloting submersibles at Makai for better than three decades, starting in the mid-1970s harvesting corals. He shifted to the University of Hawaii and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which had bought the Makai facility to expand the nation’s deep-sea capabilities.

    In 1985, Mr. Kerby found the Pisces V submersible idled in Edinburgh and persuaded the university to spend $500,000 for it. Relatively big, it could dive to 6,500 feet. “She cost $4 million to build in 1972,” he said. “And would cost $50 million to build today.”

    Pisces V came with no instruction manual, but Mr. Kerby found it was highly maneuverable and could hover motionless, even in strong currents. It also operated untethered from a mother ship, allowing exploration of caves and overhangs. Coupling Pisces with the University of Hawaii’s research ship, the Ka`imikai-O-Kanaloa, and a home-built submersible platform enabled Mr. Kerby to carry out missions from 60 feet down, during surface conditions too rough for any other submersible.

    Temp 1
    Ka`imikai-O-Kanaloa

    Mr. Kerby racked up discoveries, beginning with exploration of the Loihi seamount off Kona.

    6
    Lōʻihi Seamount

    7
    Yellow iron oxide-covered lava rock on the flank of Lōʻihi

    Eighteen years of return missions have revealed that an area once thought dead is a vibrant world of myriad ecosystems and volcanism still shaping the Hawaiian Islands. Along Loihi and other slopes, the team discovered living corals that predate even California’s bristlecone pines.

    3
    The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (known as HURL) is based at the Makai pier on Oahu. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

    In 2000, Mr. Kerby acquired a sister sub, the Pisces IV, from Canada for $80,000. Exploring in tandem made diving safer and enabled film crews to show discoveries in the context of the submersibles. The subs have appeared in more than 20 documentaries, including National Geographic’s “Fires of Creation,” in which the oceanographer Robert Ballard, whose discoveries included the wreckage of the Titanic, descended with Mr. Kerby to the caldera of Loihi.

    Besides plumbing geological and ecological mysteries, the Pisces subs have made dives that sharpened views of history.

    A little more than an hour before the first bombs fell in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American destroyer U.S.S. Ward reported that it had sunk a tiny submarine near the harbor entrance. But in a blunder that still fuels conspiracy theories, the report never reached far enough up Navy command to initiate a mobilization of defenses. The Ward’s claim was disputed, even in the official Pearl Harbor investigation report. The sub thus became a holy grail for marine archaeologists and historians.

    In August 2002, Mr. Kerby lay across the bench of the Pisces V, 1,200 feet down, gazing at the dark, frigid world beyond his porthole. For hours he had been sweeping the seafloor four miles south of Pearl Harbor, hunting for the mythic sub amid three dozen potential sonar targets and fighting a rising sense of futility. “We were chasing our tails down there,” he said.

    But then, looming out of the darkness, Mr. Kerby faced a torpedo shape three times as long as the Pisces. It was a 78-foot-long submarine bearing the exact mortar damage – a four-inch hole punched just beneath its conning tower — described by the Ward’s crew.“We’d searched for 10mam years,” Mr. Kerby said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

    After that find, NOAA directed Mr. Kerby to further document the wreck-strewn waters off south Oahu. In another National Geographic project, the team discovered four mammoth Japanese I-series submarines captured by the Navy at the end of World War II and scuttled to keep them out of Soviet hands.


    download mp4 here.
    The first view of a World War II-era Japanese I-400 submarine from the Pisces V submersible. Video by HURLSubOps

    Through these years, HURL operated Pisces on a budget of a few million dollars a year.

    4
    Nestled among books, above, is the dive checklist for Pisces V. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

    “What the Pisces program has done, mostly underfunded and unappreciated, over the years is unmatched,” said Sylvia Earle, former chief science officer for NOAA. “It’s baffling to me that more understanding and funding hasn’t been heaped upon them.”

    Five years ago, piloted deep-sea exploration appeared on the verge of a boom, funded by wealthy explorer/entrepreneurs. In 2012, after spending $10 million building his Challenger Deep submersible, the filmmaker James Cameron became one of three humans to reach the 6.8-mile depths of the Marianas Trench, the deepest ocean spot on Earth — and the only one to do it solo. The Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson promised a new era of exploration with his $17 million Virgin Oceanic submarine. And Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chairman, joined with Dr. Earle on the $40 million Deep Ocean project.

    Yet all those programs have withered. And by fiscal year 2014, the deep-sea budget for NOAA was down to $26 million. For comparison, NASA’s exploration budget was $4 billion. The United States Navy has abandoned piloted submersibles with the exception of Alvin, which it owns jointly with Woods Hole. In 2013, NOAA said it would no longer fund the Pisces program, leaving the United States with no Pacific deep-sea facility. HURL has money to last until the beginning of 2016. After that, the university may be forced to sell the submersibles. “There are only eight deep-diving submarines left operating in the world” that can go 6,500 feet or deeper, said John Wiltshire, director of HURL and a member of the Woods Hole submersible scientific advisory committee. “So we’re about to lose a quarter of the world’s fleet.”

    What changed? To hear Dr. Ballard tell it, the shift began during a 1977 dive aboard Alvin off the Galápagos Islands. About 8,000 feet down, Dr. Ballard noticed a colleague paying more attention to the camera monitor than to Alvin’s tiny windows. “He turned his back on me to look at the screen,” Dr. Ballard said. “I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘I can get closer.’ I said, ‘Then why the hell are you here?’ ”

    Afterward, Dr. Ballard said he realized fundamental truths of piloted deep-sea exploration: It’s cold and scary, time in the deep is limited, and robotic vehicles might do the same work for less money. He persuaded the Navy to fund two remote exploration vehicles, Argo and Jason, for use by Woods Hole. On Sept. 1, 1985, Argo first filmed the wreckage of the Titanic. Since then, remote deep-sea vehicles have proliferated in exploration, mining and drilling. Dr. Wiltshire estimates perhaps 10,000 are in operation.

    NOAA’s deep-sea efforts are focused on two ships: its own Okeanos Explorer, based in Rhode Island, and the E/V Nautilus, a joint project with the Ocean Exploration Trust, founded by Dr. Ballard and based in Connecticut. Nautilus has an autonomous underwater vehicle that follows a programmed route and two tethered remote submersibles.

    Typically, Dr. Ballard’s ships carry just one or two senior oceanographers; engineers and technical staff deploy and monitor the submersibles, which, via satellite link, deliver real-time images across the world via the Internet.

    5
    Terry Kerby and his Pisces subs have discovered more than 140 undersea wrecks and artifacts. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

    Dr. Ballard described a recent Nautilus expedition that sent its submersibles two and a half miles down into the Cayman Trough. In a piloted dive, the descent and ascent would take six hours each, leaving mere minutes for seafloor exploration. “Now we’re going down to 20,000 feet and spending days,” he said. “And we have the entire world participating.”

    To most marine scientists, including Mr. Kerby, robots have clearly won the deep-sea war. It’s now a question of whether lingering advantages to piloted exploration should be discarded. Mr. Kerby described a recent robotic mission that Pisces might have done better.

    In 2012, Ric Gillespie, a retired naval aviator, and Dr. Ballard announced a sonar hit off Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific that might represent the wreckage of the Lockheed Electra flown by Amelia Earhart. Mr. Gillespie requested Mr. Kerby for the expedition, but the Pisces subs were down for maintenance, so his team instead relied on robotic technology. The tethered sub was unable to explore the near-vertical sea walls and could not deploy over days of rough seas. Eventually, an untethered robotic vehicle became lodged in a reef overhang and had to be rescued by a tethered robot. The recovery nearly required the University of Hawaii’s Ka`imikai-O-Kanaloa to deploy perilously close to a reef.

    “It’s a horrible way to search,” Mr. Gillespie said. “It’s like you’ve lost your car keys at night in your backyard and you’re looking for them through a toilet paper roll with a flashlight.”

    At the university, Dr. Wiltshire cited plans for bringing Alvin and the Nautilus rovers to explore newly created Pacific marine monuments. Rates for Nautilus are in the range of $35,000 to $40,000 a day, while Alvin and its support vessel Atlantis II cost $60,000 to $70,000 a day. HURL can deploy both Pisces subs for $48,000 a day, “and that’s not counting the transit time and expense to get there,” Dr. Wiltshire said. “It takes us 15 days, but it takes two months to bring those ships over from the East Coast.”

    Dr. Ballard countered that comparison must take into account the time his rovers can stay submerged — days at a time, as opposed to eight hours or so for Pisces or Alvin.

    Dr. Bowen, who oversees the robotic and piloted programs for Woods Hole, says piloted exploration still has plenty of benefit.

    6
    Antiaircraft guns of an I-401 Japanese submarine, discovered by the Pisces submarines. Credit Hawaii Undersea Research Lab

    There’s no question that the strong suit for robotics is that you can engage a larger number of people in the process of exploration and discovery,” Dr. Bowen said. But taking in all the undersea factors — currents, sounds, land forms, interactions between animals and their environment — humans are still far better at synthesizing what’s going on in the deep sea, he said. “We hear that all the time from researchers who have looked at the video monitors and data screens from Jason, but then also gone down in Alvin. It’s stunning how different their perception of the environment is.”

    According to Craig McLean, the assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research at NOAA, decisions about HURL’s future were mainly a matter of budget constraints and emerging technology. HURL was funded as part of NOAA’s National Undersea Research Program. Scientists competed for NOAA-backed studies, and the agency maintained and provided the equipment — like Pisces submarines — to the winners. That program was phased out in favor of an unpiloted, Internet-connected virtual model that includes on-call scientists around the world.

    “We realized we can’t afford to do it all,” he said. “So we had to ask, what are we doing and how can we have it be inclusive? So scientists who can’t dive — they have a presence through telepresence.”

    In addition to making headlines with discoveries of bizarre creatures, surveys with the Okeanos have, he said, had more practical applications. A fisheries survey, for example, resulted in the recent protection of 38,000 nautical square miles of ocean off the East Coast.

    Mr. McLean said that should a scientist bring a proposal before NOAA or the National Science Foundation that Pisces was well suited for, Mr. Kerby’s team could still get funding on a mission-by-mission basis.

    He further agreed with a sentiment expressed by Dr. Earle, that in a time of dramatic changes in the climate and ocean itself — some 90 percent of which remains completely unexplored — he would prefer that NOAA had a wider arsenal of discovery at its disposal. “We’re doing as much as we can,” he said. “But we have to get into these difficult situations where we have to make our priorities.”

    In the meantime, Mr. Kerby and his maintenance chief, Steve Price, have been hustling. Mr. Price has been funded to compile a database of all Pisces discoveries for use by NOAA. A World War II documentary project has kept Mr. Kerby busy lately, and a series of geology, undersea cable and sewer outfall surveys will keep HURL funded through year’s end. He says he is confident more work will materialize, preventing his crew from having to follow the route of many former colleagues into oil and gas exploration. He’d love to secure the resources not only to keep his subs running, but to add a full-time robot sub to HURL’s fleet.

    “An associate of mine at Woods Hole upper management said, ‘HURL doesn’t stand a chance,’ ” Mr. Kerby said. “ ‘They’re too far from the flagpole.’ Well, we are. We’re way out here on the ocean frontier, in the prime spots, and we’re one of the most cost-effective operations around. With all the new and unexplored monuments in the western Pacific, and all the groups that need to do that exploration, we’re the only viable tool with experience in these environments.”

    He paused.

    “We know what we can do.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 5:24 pm on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Hawaii   

    From U Hawaii: “UH Hilo Robotics Team Tests School’s First Rover” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    July 30, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    UH-Hilo’s rover “Spock” shown during its very first field test at a PISCES martian simulation site on Hawaii Island.

    The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Space Robotics Team has successfully built from scratch the school’s very first planetary mining rover. And by competition standards, it’s a contender.

    Ethan Paguirigan, Carli Hand, and Daryl Albano comprise the core team that designed and built the rover – appropriately named “Spock” after UH-Hilo’s mascot, “The Vulcans” – from scratch over the course of a semester. They intended to enter NASA’s annual Robotic Mining Competition (RMC) at Kennedy Space Center, which challenges college teams to build a space-worthy mining rover that can effectively mine and haul regolith, or dirt.

    Though they ran short on time, the students were able to test Spock’s prowess on July 28 for the very first time at a PISCES Martian-simulation site as part of the 2015 PRISM (PISCES Robotic International Space Mining) event.

    “It went spectacular,” said Ethan Paguirigan, UH student and team leader of the robotics group who tackled the mechanical design of the rover. “The entire system was untested… it was all a big mystery.”

    Operating the robot remotely from Gemini Observatory Headquarters in Hilo some 30 miles away, students initially faced some challenges. But any uncertainty about Spock’s capabilities were soon put to rest after the rover hauled 2.5 pounds of dirt and gravel, qualifying it by NASA competition standards as a contender.

    Following their first successful field test, Ethan, Carli, and Daryl are looking at an ambitious upgrade for Spock – autonomous operation. Their goal is to integrate sensors into the rover that will allow it to know where it is and what it is doing without a driver. With this in mind, the team intends to enter Spock in NASA’s 2016 RMC – boldly going where no UH students have gone before.

    Ethan, a mechanical engineering major, says he got into robots after seeing Marvel’s first installment of Ironman on the big screen. Carli is double-majoring in math and electrical engineering; Daryl is the programming wiz behind Spock with his studies directed in computer science.

    2
    Ethan Paguirigan, Carli Hand, and Daryl Albano stand in front of “Spock” at UH-Hilo’s robotics lab.

    Spock’s simple design and unique features speak for its performance. The battery-operated, 125-pound rover is about the size of a large lawn mower, but would eat any yard maintenance device alive with its rugged four-wheel-drive design. Using “wegs,” or spoked “wheel legs” made of wooden pegs, the rover has superior traction and mobility on rugged, rocky surfaces. The frame is made of light-weight aluminum and houses a cleanly-welded shovel to scoop dirt and gravel using an actuator from an electric wheel chair.

    Besides innovating the design and build of a really cool robot, UH-Hilo’s space robotics team is also advancing the technology of ISRU – in-situ resource utilization. ISRU involves “living off the land” by utilizing local materials like regolith for creating usable resources and infrastructure. On other planets, this might look like space shelters, breathable oxygen, and rocket fuel. All from dirt you ask? Yes. And it’s becoming more of a potential reality thanks to the hard work of scientists and students alike.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Hawaii   

    From U Hawaii: “Robotically Discovering Earth’s Nearest Neighbors” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    July 30, 2015

    A team of astronomers using ground-based telescopes in Hawaii, California, and Arizona recently discovered a planetary system orbiting a nearby star that is only 54 light-years away. All three planets orbit their star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just 5, 15, and 24 days.

    Astronomers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California Observatories, and Tennessee State University found the planets using measurements from the Automated Planet Finder (APF) Telescope at Lick Observatory in California, the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, and the Automatic Photometric Telescope (APT) at Fairborn Observatory in Arizona.

    UC Observatories Lick APF
    UCO Lick APF

    Keck Observatory
    Keck Observatory Interior
    Keck

    U Arizona APT Fairborn
    APT at Fairborn

    The team discovered the new planets by detecting the wobble of the star HD 7924 as the planets orbited and pulled on the star gravitationally. APF and Keck Observatory traced out the planets’ orbits over many years using the Doppler technique that has successfully found hundreds of mostly larger planets orbiting nearby stars. APT made crucial measurements of the brightness of HD 7924 to assure the validity of the planet discoveries.

    1
    HD7924

    Artist’s impression of a view from the HD 7924 planetary system looking back toward our sun, which would be easily visible to the naked eye. Since HD 7924 is in our northern sky, an observer looking back at the sun would see objects like the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds close to our sun in their sky. Art by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, UH IfA.

    The new APF facility offers a way to speed up the planet search. Planets can be discovered and their orbits traced much more quickly because APF is a dedicated facility that robotically searches for planets every clear night. Training computers to run the observatory all night, without human oversight, took years of effort by the University of California Observatories staff and graduate students on the discovery team.

    “We initially used APF like a regular telescope, staying up all night searching star to star. But the idea of letting a computer take the graveyard shift was more appealing after months of little sleep. So we wrote software to replace ourselves with a robot,” said University of Hawaii graduate student BJ Fulton.

    The Keck Observatory found the first evidence of planets orbiting HD 7924, discovering the innermost planet in 2009 using the HIRES instrument installed on the 10-meter Keck I telescope.

    Keck HIRES
    Keck HIRES

    This same combination was also used to find other super-Earths orbiting nearby stars in planet searches led by UH astronomer Andrew Howard and UC Berkeley Professor Geoffrey Marcy. It took five years of additional observations at Keck Observatory and the year-and-a-half campaign by the APF Telescope to find the two additional planets orbiting HD 7924.

    The Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of extrasolar planets and demonstrated that they are common in our Milky Way galaxy.

    NASA Kepler Telescope
    Kepler

    However, nearly all of these planets are far from our solar system. Most nearby stars have not been thoroughly searched for the small “super-Earth” planets (larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune) that Kepler found in great abundance.

    This discovery shows the type of planetary system that astronomers expect to find around many nearby stars in the coming years. “The three planets are unlike anything in our solar system, with masses 7-8 times the mass of Earth and orbits that take them very close to their host star,” explains UC Berkeley graduate student Lauren Weiss.

    “This level of automation is a game-changer in astronomy,” says Howard. “It’s a bit like owning a driverless car that goes planet shopping.”

    Observations by APF, APT, and Keck Observatory helped verify the planets and rule out other explanations. “Starspots, like sunspots on the sun, can momentarily mimic the signatures of small planets. Repeated observations over many years allowed us to separate the starspot signals from the signatures of these new planets,” explains Evan Sinukoff, a UH graduate student who contributed to the discovery.

    The robotic observations of HD 7924 are the start of a systematic survey for super-Earth planets orbiting nearby stars. Fulton will lead this two-year search with the APF as part of his research for his doctoral dissertation. “When the survey is complete we will have a census of small planets orbiting sun-like stars within approximately 100 light-years of Earth,” says Fulton.

    Telescope automation is relatively new to astronomy, and UH astronomers are building two forefront facilities. Christoph Baranec built the Robo-AO observatory to takes high-resolution images using a laser to remove the blur of Earth’s atmosphere, and John Tonry is developing ATLAS, a robotic observatory that will hunt for killer asteroids.

    The paper presenting this work, “Three super-Earths orbiting HD 7924,” has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and is available at no cost at http://arxiv.org/abs/1504.06629. The other authors of the paper are Howard Isaacson (UC Berkeley), Gregory Henry (TSU), and Bradford Holden and Robert I. Kibrick (UCO).

    n honor of the donations of Gloria and Ken Levy that helped facilitate the construction of the Levy spectrograph on APF and supported Lauren Weiss, the team has informally named the HD 7924 system the “Levy Planetary System.” The team also acknowledges the support of NASA, the U.S. Naval Observatory, and the University of California for its support of Lick Observatory.

    See the full article here.

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    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:52 pm on July 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Hawaii   

    From U Hawaii IFA: “A Cold Cosmic Mystery Solved: “ 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    Institute for Astronomy

    U Hawaii Institute for Astonomy Mauna Kea
    IFA at Manua Kea

    April 20, 2015
    Contacts:

    Dr. István Szapudi
    +1 808 956-6196
    szapudi@ifa.hawaii.edu

    Dr. András Kovács
    +34 93 176 3966
    akovacs@ifae.es

    Dr. Roy Gal
    +1 808-956-6235
    cell: +1 301-728-8637
    rgal@ifa.hawaii.edu

    Ms. Louise Good
    Media Contact
    +1 808-381-2939

    Astronomers discover what might be the largest known structure in the universe that leaves its imprint on cosmic microwave background radiation.
    Synopsis: A very large cold spot that has been a mystery for over a decade can now be explained.

    In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky.

    Cosmic Background Radiation Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.

    Now, a team of astronomers led by Dr. István Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot, which Szapudi says may be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”

    1
    The Cold Spot area resides in the constellation Eridanus in the southern galactic hemisphere. The insets show the environment of this anomalous patch of the sky as mapped by Szapudi’s team using PS1 and WISE data and as observed in the cosmic microwave background temperature data taken by the Planck satellite. The angular diameter of the vast supervoid aligned with the Cold Spot, which exceeds 30 degrees, is marked by the white circles. Graphics by Gergő Kránicz. Image credit: ESA Planck Collaboration.

    If the Cold Spot originated from the Big Bang itself, it could be a rare sign of exotic physics that the standard cosmology (basically, the Big Bang theory and related physics) does not explain. If, however, it is caused by a foreground structure between us and the CMB, it would be a sign that there is an extremely rare large-scale structure in the mass distribution of the universe.

    Using data from Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope located on Haleakala, Maui, and NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite, Szapudi’s team discovered a large supervoid, a vast region 1.8 billion light-years across, in which the density of galaxies is much lower than usual in the known universe.

    Pann-STARSR1 Telescope
    Pann-STARSR1 Telescope

    NASA Wise Telescope
    NASA/WISE

    This void was found by combining observations taken by PS1 at optical wavelengths with observations taken by WISE at infrared wavelengths to estimate the distance to and position of each galaxy in that part of the sky.

    Earlier studies, also done in Hawaii, observed a much smaller area in the direction of the Cold Spot, but they could establish only that no very distant structure is in that part of the sky. Paradoxically, identifying nearby large structures is harder than finding distant ones, since we must map larger portions of the sky to see the closer structures. The large three-dimensional sky maps created from PS1 and WISE by Dr. András Kovács (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary) were thus essential for this study. The supervoid is only about 3 billion light-years away from us, a relatively short distance in the cosmic scheme of things.

    Imagine there is a huge void with very little matter between you (the observer) and the CMB. Now think of the void as a hill. As the light enters the void, it must climb this hill. If the universe were not undergoing accelerating expansion, then the void would not evolve significantly, and light would descend the hill and regain the energy it lost as it exits the void. But with the accelerating expansion, the hill is measurably stretched as the light is traveling over it. By the time the light descends the hill, the hill has gotten flatter than when the light entered, so the light cannot pick up all the energy it lost upon entering the void. The light exits the void with less energy, and therefore at a longer wavelength, which corresponds to a colder temperature.

    Getting through a supervoid can take millions of years, even at the speed of light, so this measurable effect, known as the Integrated Sachs-Wolfe (ISW) effect, might provide the first explanation one of the most significant anomalies found to date in the CMB, first by a NASA satellite called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), and more recently, by Planck, a satellite launched by the European Space Agency.

    NASA WMAP satellite
    NASA/WMAP

    ESA Planck
    ESA/Planck

    While the existence of the supervoid and its expected effect on the CMB do not fully explain the Cold Spot, it is very unlikely that the supervoid and the Cold Spot at the same location are a coincidence. The team will continue its work using improved data from PS1 and from the Dark Energy Survey being conducted with a telescope in Chile to study the Cold Spot and supervoid, as well as another large void located near the constellation Draco.

    Dark Energy Icon
    Dark Energy Camera
    Dark Energy Survey and it DECam camera, built at FNAL and housed in the CTIO Victor M Blanco 4 meter telescope

    The study is being published online on April 20 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by the Oxford University Press. In addition to Szapudi and Kovács, researchers who contributed to this study include UH Manoa alumnus Benjamin Granett (now at the National Institute for Astrophysics, Italy), Zsolt Frei (Eötvös Loránd), and Joseph Silk (Johns Hopkins).

    U Hawaii IFA just put up a bunch of older articles into RSS. This is one of the best.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:35 pm on April 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Supervoid, U Hawaii   

    From U Hawaii: ” A very large cold spot that has been a mystery for over a decade can now be explained” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky. The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.

    Now, a team of astronomers led by Dr. István Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot, which Szapudi says may be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity”.

    1
    The Cold Spot area resides in the constellation Eridanus in the southern galactic hemisphere. The insets show the environment of this anomalous patch of the sky as mapped by Szapudi’s team using PS1 and WISE data and as observed in the cosmic microwave background temperature data taken by the Planck satellite. The angular diameter of the vast supervoid aligned with the Cold Spot, which exceeds 30 degrees, is marked by the white circles. Graphics by Gergő Kránicz. Image credit: ESA Planck Collaboration.

    If the Cold Spot originated from the Big Bang itself, it could be a rare sign of exotic physics that the standard cosmology (basically, the Big Bang theory and related physics) does not explain. If, however, it is caused by a foreground structure between us and the CMB, it would be a sign that there is an extremely rare large-scale structure in the mass distribution of the universe.

    Using data from Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope located on Haleakala, Maui, and NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite, Szapudi’s team discovered a large supervoid, a vast region 1.8 billion light-years across, in which the density of galaxies is much lower than usual in the known universe. This void was found by combining observations taken by PS1 at optical wavelengths with observations taken by WISE at infrared wavelengths to estimate the distance to and position of each galaxy in that part of the sky.

    Pann-STARSR1 Telescope
    Pann-STARRS1 interior
    Pan-STARRS1

    NASA Wise Telescope
    NASA/WISE

    Earlier studies, also done in Hawaii, observed a much smaller area in the direction of the Cold Spot, but they could establish only that no very distant structure is in that part of the sky. Paradoxically, identifying nearby large structures is harder than finding distant ones, since we must map larger portions of the sky to see the closer structures. The large three-dimensional sky maps created from PS1 and WISE by Dr. András Kovács (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary) were thus essential for this study. The supervoid is only about 3 billion light-years away from us, a relatively short distance in the cosmic scheme of things.

    Imagine there is a huge void with very little matter between you (the observer) and the CMB. Now think of the void as a hill. As the light enters the void, it must climb this hill. If the universe were not undergoing accelerating expansion, then the void would not evolve significantly, and light would descend the hill and regain the energy it lost as it exits the void. But with the accelerating expansion, the hill is measurably stretched as the light is traveling over it. By the time the light descends the hill, the hill has gotten flatter than when the light entered, so the light cannot pick up all the energy it lost upon entering the void. The light exits the void with less energy, and therefore at a longer wavelength, which corresponds to a colder temperature.

    Getting through a supervoid can take millions of years, even at the speed of light, so this measurable effect, known as the Integrated Sachs-Wolfe (ISW) effect, might provide the first explanation one of the most significant anomalies found to date in the CMB, first by a NASA satellite called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), and more recently, by Planck, a satellite launched by the European Space Agency.

    NASA WMAP satellite
    NASA/WMAP

    ESA Planck
    ESA/Planck

    While the existence of the supervoid and its expected effect on the CMB do not fully explain the Cold Spot, it is very unlikely that the supervoid and the Cold Spot at the same location are a coincidence. The team will continue its work using improved data from PS1 and from the Dark Energy Survey being conducted with a telescope in Chile to study the Cold Spot and supervoid, as well as another large void located near the constellation Draco.

    The study is being published online on April 20 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by the Oxford University Press. In addition to Szapudi and Kovács, researchers who contributed to this study include UH Manoa alumnus Benjamin Granett (now at the National Institute for Astrophysics, Italy), Zsolt Frei (Eötvös Loránd), and Joseph Silk (Johns Hopkins).

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:48 pm on January 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , U Hawaii,   

    From U Hawaii: “Researchers discover precursor volcano to the island of Oahu” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    May 15, 2014
    John Sinton, (808) 956-7751
    Emeritus Professor, Geology and Geophysics
    Marcie Grabowski, (808) 956-3151
    Outreach Coordinator, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

    Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM), Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de L’Environment in France and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California recently discovered that O‘ahu actually consists of three major Hawaiian shield volcanoes, not two, as previously thought.

    k

    The island of O‘ahu, as we know it today, is the remnants of two volcanoes, Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau. But extending almost 100 km WNW from Ka‘ena Point, the western tip of the island of O‘ahu, is a large region of shallow bathymetry, called the submarine Ka‘ena Ridge. It is that region that has now been recognized to represent a precursor volcano to the island of O‘ahu, and on whose flanks the Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau Volcanoes later formed.

    Prior to the recognition of Ka‘ena Volcano, Wai‘anae Volcano was assumed to have been exceptionally large and to have formed an unusually large distance from its next oldest neighbor, Kaua‘i. “Both of these assumptions can now be revised: Wai‘anae is not as large as previously thought and Ka‘ena Volcano formed in the region between Kauai and Wai‘anae,” noted John Sinton, lead author of the study and Emeritus Professor of Geology and Geophysics at the UHM School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

    In 2010 scientists documented enigmatic chemistry of some unusual lavas of Wai‘anae. “We previously knew that they formed by partial melting of the crust beneath Wai‘anae, but we didn’t understand why they have the isotopic composition that they do,” said Sinton. “Now, we realize that the deep crust that melted under Waianae is actually part of the earlier Ka‘ena Volcano.”

    This new understanding has been a long time in the making. Among the most important developments was the acquisition of high-quality bathymetric data of the seafloor in the region. This mapping was greatly accelerated after UH acquired the Research Vessel Kilo Moana, equipped with a high-resolution mapping system. The new data showed that Ka‘ena Ridge had an unusual morphology, unlike that of submarine rift zone extensions of on-land volcanoes. Researchers then began collecting samples from Ka‘ena and Wai‘alu submarine Ridges. The geochemical and age data, along with geological observations and geophysical data confirmed that Ka‘ena was not part of Waianae, but rather was an earlier volcanic edifice; Wai‘anae must have been built on the flanks of Ka‘ena.

    “What is particularly interesting is that Ka‘ena appears to have had an unusually prolonged history as a submarine volcano, only breaching the ocean surface very late in its history,” said Sinton. Much of our knowledge of Hawaiian volcanoes is based on those that rise high above sea level, and almost all of those formed on the flanks of earlier ones. Ka‘ena represents a chance to study a Hawaiian volcano that formed in isolation on the deep ocean floor.

    Despite four different cruises and nearly 100 rock samples from Ka‘ena, researchers say they have only begun to observe and sample this massive volcanic edifice. While this article was in press, SOEST scientists visited Ka‘ena Ridge again – this time with the UH’s newest remotely operated vehicle, ROV Lu‘ukai – and collected new rock samples from some of its shallowest peaks. With these new samples Sinton and colleagues hope to constrain the timing of the most recent volcanism on Ka‘ena.

    John M. Sinton, Deborah E. Eason, Mary Tardona, Douglas Pyle, Iris van der Zander, Hervé Guillou, David A. Clague and John J. Mahoney (2014). Ka‘ena Volcano–A precursor volcano of the island of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, Geological Society of America Bulletin, doi: 10.1130/B30936.1

    See the full article here.

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    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:00 am on December 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: U Hawaii   

    From Hawaii Tribune Herald via U Hawaii: “Astronomy’s impact: Sector pumps $91.48 million into Big Isle economy in 2012” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    h

    December 28, 2014
    COLIN M. STEWART

    Hawaii Island raked in $91.48 million in 2012 thanks to direct and indirect impacts of the astronomy sector, according to a recent study by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

    Astronomy projects throughout the state generated benefits to local economies on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Honolulu totaling nearly $168 million, reads the UHERO report, which the organization released online this month.

    “The astronomy sector in Hawaii generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees and spending by students and visitors,” the report reads.

    Local astronomy related expenditures on the Big Isle totaled $58.43 million, with $25.8 million spent in Honolulu, $1.28 million on Kauai and $2.58 million on Maui. Those expenditures gave rise to $52.26 million in earnings, $8.15 million in state taxes, and 1,394 jobs statewide.

    Hawaii County’s astronomy expenditures created $27.98 million in earnings, $4 million in state taxes, and a total of 806 jobs.

    “Nearly 70 percent of local spending occurred in Hawaii County,” the report says. “The $58.43 million of expenditures attributed to astronomy activities in Hawaii County alone generated $91.48 million in local business sales.”

    The impacts of astronomy on Hawaii Island and the rest of the state are many, said Dr. Roy Gal, spokesman for the University of Hawaii-Manoa Institute for Astronomy.

    “A lot of people don’t realize, it’s not just astronomers on the island spending money,” he said. “You’ve got telescope technicians and engineers and staff and all those folks living on Hawaii Island. And they tend to be technically proficient, so they’re earning above-average pay and spending it here, and their kids are going to school here. They also tend to do a lot of volunteer work, so its not just an economic impact but a societal impact as well.”

    The report also noted astronomy is big business for Hawaii.

    In 2012, the output from Hawaii’s astronomy industry was roughly equal to half of the output estimated for agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; a third the size of the output from the arts, entertainment and recreation sector; and nearly a fourth of the output generated by either the educational services or the management of companies and enterprises sectors.

    Sandra Dawson, spokeswoman for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which is set to begin construction atop Mauna Kea in the spring, said expenditures on astronomy are set to increase dramatically for Hawaii Island.

    TMT
    TMT Schematic
    TMT

    “Construction alone for TMT is going to be over a billion dollars,” she said. “Construction of observatories has been a major boon to the local economy, as well as repairs. They’re always putting in new instruments … and it just makes economic sense to always try to hire local people.”

    As TMT has worked its way through the approvals process, the organization has made a number of commitments to the Big Isle community, including efforts with other observatories to build a Hawaii Island workforce pipeline, to help support training for engineering, science and other jobs in the high-tech sector, Dawson said.

    “Construction and repair is just one aspect (of expenditures),” she said. “The most interesting part, in my view, is the longterm jobs and money that come into the community. We’re looking at generating very good, long lasting, high paying jobs with benefits.”

    Internships, scholarships and other programs help to not only support the local community, but support astronomy by building a well-trained, local workforce of the future, she said.

    See the full article here.

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    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:12 pm on December 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , U Hawaii   

    From U Hawaii: “Correction: Tonight isn’t the longest night in Earth’s history” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii

    Dec 21, 2014
    Joseph Stromberg

    This article originally said that, due to the rotation of the Earth gradually slowing down over time, this winter solstice would feature the longest night ever.

    I got this wrong. The Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing on an extremely long timescale, but on a shorter year-to-year basis, geologic factors can alter the speed as well.

    Data indicates that the rotation speed has actually sped up slightly over the past forty years (likely due to melting of ice at the poles and the resulting redistribution of the Earth’s mass), and before that, the trend was up-and-down for most of the 20th century — so, as far as we know, the longest night in Earth’s history likely occurred in 1912. I apologize for the error. Thanks to Steve Allen and Ryan Hardy for pointing it out.

    Today, you might already know, is the winter solstice. That means for people living in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the longest night of the year.

    However, as science blogger Colin Schultz points out, tonight will also be the longest night ever.

    At any location in the Northern Hemisphere, in other words, tonight’s period of darkness will be slightly longer than any other, ever — at least, since the planet started spinning right around the time it was first formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

    Why this night will be the longest ever

    The reason is that the rotation of the Earth is slowing over time. Every year, scientists estimate, the length of a day increases by about 15 to 25 millionths of a second.

    It may be a truly tiny amount (and it means that even in your entire lifetime, the length of a day will only expand by about two milliseconds), but it forces official timekeepers to add a leap second every few years.

    The main reason Earth’s rotation slowing down is the moon. Shortly after the formation of Earth, it was impacted by a planet-sized object. This enormous collision threw off the material that would eventually coalesce into the moon, and also sent Earth spinning quite rapidly.

    In the four-plus billion years since, that spinning has slowed down pretty significantly (with an Earth day going from about six hours to 24 hours as a result) because of the moon’s gravity.

    The moon’s gravity pulls ocean water slightly toward and away from it, causing tides. But because of the alignment of the two bodies, the resulting bulge of water is slightly ahead of the spot on Earth that’s directly under the moon.

    As a result, the Earth encounters just a bit of friction from this bulge of water as it rotates, slowing it down slightly.

    The phenomenon — called tidal acceleration — also allows the moon to drift slightly farther away from Earth over time. (It’s also what’s led the same face of the moon to always faces Earth as it rotates around us, and eventually, if things went on long enough, the same face of Earth would always face the moon as well, a phenomenon called tidal locking.)

    There are a few other things that contribute to Earth’s slowing down, but their contributions are minor. One is that the moon’s gravity similarly causes Earth’s crust to flex, like its water, leading to some friction as well.

    Why winter solstice is the longest night of the year

    This one is much simpler. The Earth orbits around the sun on a tilted axis, so sometimes, the Northern Hemisphere gets more exposure to sunlight over the course of a day, and sometimes, the Southern Hemisphere does. This is what accounts for the changing of the seasons.

    Every year, on December 21 or 22, this tilt means that locations in the Northern Hemisphere get the shortest duration of sunlight they’ll get all year, so they experience the shortest day and longest night. On June 21 or 22, they get the longest days and shortest nights.

    Meanwhile, everything is reversed for locations in the Southern Hemisphere — they have their longest days in December, and longest nights in June.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
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