A Darker View

Aʻa Lava Field

An overgrown aʻa Lava field on the flank of Mauna Kea

Another weekend, another puʻu… So last week I climbed the wrong puʻu. This weekend I climbed the right puʻu.

Puʻu Kole

Puʻu Kole as seen from upslope across the aʻa lava field

The goal was to explore a pretty landmark I had looked at from the summit road so many times, Puʻu Kole. In the late afternoon light this cinder cone becomes a brilliant shade of red, a striking feature in an already impressive view.

Reaching this hill one travels a couple miles down the R-1 road, the Ka Aliali Trail. A couple of miles of 4WD road to bounce over. The road is not that bad, but I would recommend a true 4WD vehicle. DLNR requires a 4WD vehicle based on the signs, not that everyone reads the signage at the start of the road.

Unlike last weekend there was no heavy fog to obscure the landscape as I reached the area. My goal was obvious… the big red puʻu just downslope from the road. There is a short secondary road, signed R-2 that leads into the area between the two hills. After about a quarter mile this road fades at the edge of an aʻa flow. After parking I got out and sat on a rock outcropping for a while with a snack. The area is just pretty, the jagged black lava and native plants. I finished a bag of chips, downed a water bottle and simply enjoyed the view.

Puʻu Kole is notably harder to ascend than Puʻu Palaolelo. I suspected I was on the wrong puʻu last weekend when it was too easy, reaching the top after a quick stroll in the fog. Puʻu Kole is nearly twice as high, as least when approaching from the upslope side.

Continue reading Climbing the Right Puʻu…

Puako is a very popular place with divers and sea turtles. No surprise, it is a really great reef here. Patti and Mark spent a day with the turtles recently, and Mark has produced another video…

Engine trouble. Bad enough that the boat has spent a couple months on shore, one engine replaced and the other rebuilt. Thus it has been a while since I have been out diving, since late October! Had the weather been better shore diving may have been a higher priority. The winter weather has been rough, with high surf warnings a common item in the morning news.

Cave Entry

One of the many entries to the cave at Pentagon

Since the gear had sat for several months the first order of business was a good checkout of everything. The tanks only had a few hundred pounds of pressure in them, but enough to check the regulators and computer. The valves and buoyancy bladder in the BCD held pressure. I did need a new mask strap, solved with a trip down the hill to the Blue Wilderness shop. Purchasing two, one for the mask, one for the spares kit. Both of the tanks are due visual inspection, need to get that taken care of.

Arriving in the Makalawena area we found a dozen boats milling about. Only one thing would attract that may boats… Dolphins. The shallow water here is a good place to find dolphins and whales. Sure enough, there were dozens of dolphins about and pods of humans snorkeling between the boats in an attempt to see the dolphins in the water. The dolphins seemed intrigued by the boats and swimmers. A group came over to check us out and surf in our wake.

Continue reading The Aqua Safari Back in the Water…

The original plan had been to hike Puʻu Kole, a dramatically red cinder cone visible from the summit access road. The red coloration leads to the name, Kole, which translates as red.

What actually happened is that I climbed the wrong puʻu.

Parked on the Mountianside

The vehicle parked on the side of Mauna Kea with a snow covered Mauna Loa in the background

Puʻu is Hawaiian for hill and is generally used to refer to the many cinder cones that dot the landscape of this volcanic island. As prominent landmarks these hills are used to describe the land, and can be found as references in the old land surveys. Every prominent puʻu has a name. The summit of Puʻu Kole is used to define the modern Hamakua and Hilo district boundaries.

As I traversed the R1 4WD road the side of Mauna Kea was enveloped in heavy fog, thick enough that you could not see a hundred yards, sometimes less. I was pretty sure I was in the vicinity of the target, and sure enough the shadow of a large puʻu was visible in the mist. So I parked the vehicle and climbed it.

It was when I reached the top and looked downhill that I noted there was another puʻu hiding in the fog. It was then I realized that I might just be on the wrong hill. Checking the maps I realized that I had climbed Puʻu Palaolelo.

Wrong? Perhaps this is the wrong word, there was no particular reason I needed to be on the right puʻu other than my desire to explore a place I had seen so often while ascending or descending the summit road. The error was fortuitous in that my original target hill was enveloped in thick fog all morning, while Puʻu Palaolelo, a little higher on the mountain, was alternately in the fog and in the sunlight.

A beautiful fogbow, a glory and the spectre of the brocken on Puʻu Palaolelo

A beautiful fogbow, a glory and the spectre of the brocken on Puʻu Palaolelo

It was this play of fog and sunlight that led to the most dramatic experience of the day. When I neared the summit a beautiful fogbow appeared. Even better, when the angle of the sunlight and the steep slope of the puʻu allowed a glory and even a spectre of the broken appeared in the fog.

Standing atop the puʻu I could not miss the beauty of the morning. Still early the low sunlight was rich in color. Across the saddle you could see Mauna Loa, capped in vivid white, quite a contrast to her black lava flows. A chill wind swept fog over the summit, at times I was spattered with droplets. As the fog and light played across the landscape my camera memory card quickly filled. It was a satisfying hike, resulting in some pretty photos. My original goal of climbing Puʻu Kole lies unfulfilled, an excuse for another walk on the mountain.

Early on the morning of April 4th a total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Pacific. Sky watchers in Hawaiʻi will be able to observe this event from beginning to end.

Total Lunar Eclipse 14Apr2014

The total lunar eclipse on Apr 14, 2014, Canon 6D on 90mm f/12 APO

This eclipse is just barely total with an umbral magnitude of 1.0008. The northern edge of the Moon will be barely inside the umbra and probably much brighter than the south hemisphere. The eclipse is also quite short, with a total phase lasting only four minutes. Compare this to the next total eclipse of 2015 where totality lasts over an hour.

Maximum totality will occur at 12:02UT or about 02:02HST. First contact will occur at 11:01HST on the evening of the 3rd, with umbral first contact a little after midnight at 00:15HST. It is this umbral contact that will be the first obvious effect of the eclipse to a visual observer, a notable notch out of the Moon.

Observing a total lunar eclipse requires no special equipment, simply the desire to look up. The most useful piece of equipment will be a reclining chair or some other method of staying comfortable while watching the sky. A pair of binoculars or small telescope can provide beautiful views of the Moon during an eclipse. Photography is somewhat more challenging, but not that difficult. Focal lengths of around 1000mm will fill the field of most DSLR cameras allowing photos like that shown here.

Penumbral Eclipse Begins  11:01 HST   09:01 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins   00:15 HST   10:15 UT
Total Eclipse Begins   01:57 HST   11:57 UT
Greatest Eclipse   02:01 HST   12:01 UT
Total Eclipse Ends   02:02 HST   12:02 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends   03:44 HST   13:44 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends   04:58 HST   14:58 UT

Timing for the 4Apr2015 total lunar eclipse

The entire eclipse will be visible during the night, quite convenient for amateur and casual sky-watchers.

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter

An evening conjunction of Mercury, Venus and Jupiter on 30 May, 2013

A very nice evening conjunction between a crescent Moon and Venus will occur this evening, March 22. The pair will be just under 5° apart and will grace the sunset until well after dark, setting after 9pm. Venus is currently shining brightly at -4.0 magnitude, a nice match for a 10% illuminated waxing Moon.

When doing a dawn hike on Mauna Kea it is important to choose your altitude with care. You really want to be right at the top of the cloud layer. There, where the fog drifts over in alternating shifts with the sunlight, there is where the magic happens. Mamane in the fog, puʻu appearing and disappearing, and fogbows. Add fog and you have all the ingredients for some good photography.

The plan had been to spend the morning on the summit doing some testing. When that got cancelled I quickly dropped into plan B… Go hiking. I got the altitude right.

The spectre of the brocken was a nice treat. At the center of the fogbow you can see a glory, and in the center of the glory is my shadow looming large in the mist. That is the spectre.

A beautiful fogbow, a glory and the spectre of the brocken on Puʻu Palaolelo

A beautiful fogbow, a glory and the spectre of the brocken on Puʻu Palaolelo

W. M Keck Observatory press release

A team led by astronomers from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, recently used the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii to observe and measure a rare class of “active asteroids” that spontaneously emit dust and have been confounding scientists for years. The team was able to measure the rotational speed of one of these objects, suggesting the asteroid spun so fast it burst, ejecting dust and newly discovered fragments in a trail behind it. The findings are being published in Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 20, 2015.

P/2012 F5

Active asteroid P/2012 F5 captured by Keck II/DEIMOS in mid-2014. Credit: M. Drahaus, W. Waniak (OAUJ) / W. M. Keck Observatory

Unlike the hundreds of thousands of asteroids in the main belt of our solar system, which move cleanly along their orbits, active asteroids were discovered several years ago mimicking comets with their tails formed by calm, long lasting ice sublimation.

Then in 2010 a new type of active asteroid was discovered, which ejected dust like a shot without an obvious reason. Scientist gravitated around two possible hypotheses. One states the explosion is a result of a hypervelocity collision with another minor object. The second popular explanation describes it as a consequence of “rotational disruption”, a process of launching dust and fragments by spinning so fast, the large centrifugal forces produced exceed the object’s own gravity, causing it to break apart. Rotational disruption is the expected final state of what is called the YORP effect – a slow evolution of the rotation rate due to asymmetric emission of heat.

Continue reading Unusual Asteroid Suspected of Spinning to Explosion…

The vernal or spring equinox occurs today at 12:45HST. Today there will be little difference between the length of the night when counted against the number of daylight hours. This is the first day of spring as marked by many cultures in the northern hemisphere.

2015 Solstices and Equinoxes
Perihelion Jan 4 08:59UT Jan 3 22:59HST
Vernal Equinox Mar 20 22:45UT Mar 20 12:45HST
Summer Solstice Jun 21 16:38UT Jun 21 06:38HST
Apehelion Jul 6 12:59UT Jul 6 02:59HST
Autumnal Equinox Sep 23 08:20UT Sep 22 22:20HST
Winter Solstice Dec 22 04:48UT Dec 21 18:48HST
Source: NASA Sky Calendar