A Darker View

The planet Mercury is starting an evening apparition. The planet should become visible this week just above the fading glow of the setting Sun as a magnitude -1 object. The planet is moving about 1° further from the Sun and higher in the sunset each day, reaching a maximum elongation of 21° on May 6th.

Continue reading Mercury Appears in the Evening Sky…

Kohala Sunset

Sunset along the Kohala Coast, photo by Deborah Cooper

Ghost Forest

A dead grove of mamane on the side of Mauna Kea

Kohala Moon

The Waimea Plains looking towards Mauna Kea under the light of a full moon from Kohala Mtn, Road

I work at the summit of a nearly 14,000ft mountain that sits atop a pretty tropical island. That alone is good enough reason to carry a camera at all times. You never know when you will need that camera, beauty appears when you least expect it.

Dome Motor Controller

The control wiring for a Keck 1 dome VFD motor controller

There are other reasons to carry a camera in my life. I often use the camera to document my work. There is a camera, the little EOS-M, in my backpack alongside the rest of my tools. Wire cutters, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, a multimeter, all the useful tools I need every day, along with a camera, memory cards and spare batteries.

The advent of digital cameras where the cost of each photo is negligible has made this possible. This would not have been practical in the days of film. Yes, I remember those days, counting out every frame of a 36 exposure roll, deciding if the shot was worth it. In this digital age I usually have a dedicated camera along and never worry about shooting. If that camera is out of reach there is always the iPhone in my pocket.

The equipment I work on is often unique, there may be only one copy in the world. Two if we have one installed on both Keck 1 and Keck 2. The documentation can be of varying quality, some is good, some is abysmal, some is just plain wrong. Some of this gear was professionally built by engineers, some of it was built by graduate students who would never need to fix it years later.

Continue reading Reasons to Carry a Camera…

Mauna Kea Morning

The sun rising into the sky over Mauna Kea


Pukiawe (Styphelia tameiameiae) on the slopes of Mauna Kea

An attractive bush seen commonly on Mauna Kea, this shrub is common across the dry cinder slopes and recent lava flows. Styphelia tameiameiae is a member of the family Epacridaceae the plant is found throughout the Hawaiian islands and is endemic to Hawaii and the Marquesas.


Pukiawe (Styphelia tameiameiae) on the slopes of Mauna Kea

As you ascend the mountain pukiawe is one of the last plants you will see, growing at elevations up to 10,000ft. Along the Mauna Kea access road it is one of the most common plants dotting the mountainside. Large isolated bushes scattered widely among the gravel switchbacks above Hale Pōhaku.

Small, upright leaved are densely spaced on the branches. The small (5mm or 1/4in) red fruits are not edible. The leaves of the plant were used for medicinal purposes by the ancient Hawaiians.

Today Mercury passes through superior conjunction, passing behind the Sun as seen from the Earth. The planet will appear in the sunset in ten days or so, reaching maximum elongation on May 7th.

Continue reading Mercury at Superior Conjunction…

ʻŌhelo ʻai in the Fog

ʻŌhelo ʻai (Vaccinium reticulatum) atop a cinder cone with a fogbow behind

Capturing Video

The Canon 6D camera setup to take short time lapse video sequences of the clouds in the Humuʻula Saddle.