For the sixth year running I made the drive to Hilo to help in judging the Big Island Regional 2013 MATE Underwater ROV competition. Too much fun to miss!
As usual Keck provided much of the official staff. This is the fault of Keck software engineer Al Honey, the head official, who drafts the rest of us into being there! An engineer from Liquid Robotics and a couple folks from the observatories in Hilo rounded out the judging staff. Add teams from schools all over the island and mix with water to create an event.
A ROV built from PVC pipe and bilge pumps maneuvers the course at the 2013 MATE ROV regional competition in Hilo
The missions continue to increase in complexity. This year the task was a simulated undersea research platform. Various instruments were in need of upgrade or servicing. Opening a hatch on the “undersea instrument platform”, disconnecting power, removing an instrument, installing a new instrument, removing bio-fouling, a long list of tasks, each worth a few points in the final tally. Never-mind the instruments were made of PVC and the bio-fouling was actually pipe cleaners, it still was not easy!
Continue reading 2013 Big Island MATE ROV Competition…
Planets, Stars, and How to Live on a Space Station
May 23rd Astronomy Program
Kailua Kona Library
3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Allan Honey, a program engineer at Keck Observatory, will talk about the different distances in space between stars and planets. Allan’s son, Ben Honey, a flight controller for the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, will explain what happens when astronauts live and work in space. Allan Honey has worked at the Keck Observatory for more than 26 years, and Ben Honey grew up on the Big Island before leaving to study at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Our May meeting will take place tonight, Tuesday, May 14th, 7:00pm at Keck Observatory HQ in Waimea. This month we have local photographer Ethan Tweedie in to talk.
The Antennae Galaxies, NGC4038 & 4039 as imaged by MOSFIRE, image credit Keck Observatory
Join the W. M. Keck Observatory for an evening of astronomy presented at the Kahilu Theater.
MOSFIRE is the newest and the most advanced astronomical instrument available today. Dr. Ian McLean from UCLA will describe some of the technical challenges developing and commissioning this multi-year, multi-million dollar instrument. He will also share early science results ranging from the discovery of ultra-cool, nearby substellar mass objects, to the detection of oxygen in young galaxies only 2 billion years after the Big Bang.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Show starts at 7 p.m.
Free and Open to the Public
Our May meeting will take place Tuesday, May 14th, 7:00pm at Keck Observatory HQ in Waimea. This month we have local photographer Ethan Tweedie in to talk.
It was fun. It is always fun!
It is AstroDay
, a chance for all of the observatories to do a little community outreach.
Prince Kuhio Plaza is the largest mall on the island. Perhaps small by large city standards it is still the focal point of shopping in Hilo. The observatories and a few other organizations use tables all through the branches of the mall. In the center of it all is a stage with live music, giveaways and other activities for the crowd. The whole thing is a great family day and a great outreach opportunity.
Continue reading AstroDay 2013…
Take two old scanners, two VCR’s, a stereo amplifier and tape deck. Place on a table with an ample supply of screwdrivers, wire cutters and other tools. Mix in a dozen middle school kids and observe the results!
As you might expect a little chaos appears. Chaos is good… Embrace the chaos! Use the result to have a little fun while learning.
A few electronic sacrifices await the arrival of the students.
The event is STEMpede, a day filled with science, technology, engineering and math at the Parker School
here in Waimea. With Keck Observatory
essentially right next door, it makes sense that our engineers and astronomers can put on quite a day for the kids.We were joined by one of the engineers from Liquid Robotics
and a couple local physicians and paramedics for a variety of activities and talks.
I was not going to simply talk, I have always believed learning is best done by hand. Some of the gear was from my own garage, some off the electronics disposal pallet at work. A lineup of old electronics greeted the kids, then I opened the tool-bag!
Continue reading STEMpede at Parker…
Tomorrow is AstroDay at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo. I will be there! Will you?
Astronomy is a science where human timescales become insignificant. It seems like everything we are watching takes millions or even billions of years to occur. To be sure, there are a few things that happen quickly, like supernovae, but those events are the exceptions. Everywhere we look we see the stately dance of stars and galaxies, the formation of worlds. The dance is spread across distances and times so vast that even those who study the universe have difficulty comprehending the sheer immensity involved. Stars and planets take hundreds of thousands of years to form, a galaxy collision may go on for millions of years.
M6, the Butterfly Cluster
And yet there is a significant portion
of our fellow citizens who insist that the universe is only a few thousand years old. I encounter this belief all too often, a dogged insistence that everything was created just a few thousand years ago. There are variations on the theme, with differing numbers, but these beliefs generally accept
that our universe and the Earth were formed within the last ten thousand years. Never mind we have literally mountains of evidence to the contrary, when that evidence clashes with worldviews instilled since birth by a religion and parents, a discouraging number of people ignore reality and cling to what they were taught. To admit otherwise would open up too many other dearly held beliefs to questioning, a truly uncomfortable challenge.
Continue reading Creationist Astronomy…
Another exhibit built for public outreach functions. It was completed and used for the recent W. M. Keck Observatory open house. You will also be able to see it at the upcoming AstroDay fun in Hilo.
Ray-tracing is a standard way to analyze optical designs. The technique allows the optical designer to follow the path of each ray of light through a system of lenses and mirrors. While ray tracing used to be done with pencil and paper, it is now done on a computer screen. What I had never seen was this process done in the physical. But I can figure out how…
A laser ray trace table used to demonstrate the focal point of a simple lens
Take a few laser line modules, a bit of sheet metal and paint, a bit of circuitry and we can do this!
In the photo you can see the idea… Five red laser line modules are aligned across a table. Stick a lens section in the beams and you can observe refraction as it happens. Using a double convex lens, all of the beams converge to a focus. A clear demonstration of the basic principles of optics!
Continue reading Laser Ray-Trace…