Mercury at Maximum Elongation

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

Today Mercury is passing through maximum elongation, the furthest it will rise above the setting Sun in the evening sky. After today the planet will slide back into the Sun’s glare headed for inferior conjunction on July 21st.

This is the most favorable evening apparition of the year, reaching over 25° from the Sun. The October apparition is almost as good
reaching over 24° from the Sun.

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Summer Solstice

The summer solstice will occur at 05:54HST today.

Sunset among the puʻu of Mauna Kea
Sunset light and fog in among the puʻu on the south flank of Mauna Kea

The Sun has reached the most northerly declination it will achieve this year. After today the Sun begins to move south in our skies.

Today will be the longest day of the year for those of us located in the northern hemisphere.

Today is considered the start of summer for most cultures in the northern hemisphere, or the start of winter for those in the southern hemisphere.

2019 Apsides and Seasons
Event Universal TimeHawaii Standard Time
Perihelion Jan 0305:20UTJan 0219:20HST
Spring Equinox Mar 2021:58UTMar 2011:58HST
Summer SolsticeJun 2115:54UTJun 2105:54HST
Aphelion Jul 0422:11UTJul 0412:11HST
Fall Equinox Sep 2307:50UTSep 2221:50HST
Winter SolsticeDec 2204:19UTDec 2118:19HST
Data from US Naval Observatory Data Services

Jupiter at Opposition

Jupiter will pass through opposition at 05:11HST today.

Jupiter 14Apr2016
Jupiter on April 15, 2016

Jupiter orbits the Sun once every 11.86 years. As the giant planet continues on its way the Earth swings around much faster on our inside track. As a result we lap Jupiter once every 399 days, passing between the planet and the Sun. During opposition Jupiter will rise at sunset, transit at midnight, and set at dawn. This makes the planet available for observation for the entire night.

Look for a bright object rising in the eastern sky after sunset. It is difficult to mistake for anything else, shining at it’s brightest during opposition, a brilliant -2.7 magnitude. For the remainder of the spring and much of the summer, the planet will be quite prominent in the evening sky.

Mauna Kea Rules Hearing

This evening was the local hearing for the proposed Mauna Kea Public Access Rules. As the hearing took place at Waikoloa School I had no excuse not to go, it is practically at the end of our street. Of course I was going to attend even if I had to drive across island, this is an issue that directly affects me.

An ancient ahu atop Mauna Kea
An ancient ahu atop Mauna Kea

And yes, I testified, attempting to summarize my three pages of written testimony in three minutes. I suspect I got the gist across in a clear fashion, I will submit my written testimony as well.

Other than myself the testifiers were completely drawn from the anti-telescope community. It is unfortunate that the issue has become so polarized that no other members of the community attended. Access to the mauna affects more than just the astronomy and anti-astronomy folks, this should be of interest to anyone who calls the island home.

As such many of the testifiers paid scant attention to the contents of the rules, instead of providing constructive input so much testimony was simply another protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope. Some form of rules need to be put in place with or without the new telescope.

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Public Access to Mauna Kea… Round 3

It is now round three for the Mauna Kea public access rules. The first versions of the rules were simply bad and rightly faced unanimous criticism from the community. Virtually nobody testified in support of the first version at the public meetings.

A crowd of tourists watching sunrise atop Mauna Kea
A crowd of tourists watching sunrise atop Mauna Kea

This latest version of the rules is much better, at least someone properly edited the rules and there are no complete blunders in the language.

There are still some items in the rules that are problematic. In general the university is attempting to regulate public activity on the mauna far beyond their mandate in the lease or in the comprehensive management plan.

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An Evening Conjunction

e Moon, Venus and Aldebaran
The Moon, Venus and Aldebaran join up for an evening conjunction

This evening will feature a a pretty set of planets and the Moon low in the sunset. Mercury, Mars, and a thin crescent Moon will be visible above the glow of the setting Sun.

The Moon will be a very thin sliver, a mere 4% illuminated. Look 7° above the Moon for Mars. Mercury will be harder to spot, about
7° below the Moon, closer to the sunset and a little north (to the right).

One Year Ago…

On June 3rd, 2018 Deb and I flew over the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. It seems so long ago, it seems like yesterday.

Fissure 8 Lava Fountain
The lava fountain at fissure 8 in Leilani Estates throwing lava hundreds of feet in the air on June 3rd, 2018

We looked down on a broad flow front, over a mile wide. The flow burning through orchid farms and papaya orchards, destruction that was painful to watch.

We looked down on a lava fountain hundreds of feet high. Fissure 8 was supplying a river of lava that spelled doom for Kapoho Bay and the beautiful tidepools at Waiʻopae.

A year later the lava is still cooling and the community is still rebuilding. Kilauea is quiet with no lava on the surface anywhere. We wonder where the next eruption will be.