Stars in the night sky
Keck Observatory sees
When was the Big Bang?
– Barbara Russell
Thanks to the work of a lot of astronomers and observatories, including Keck, we can answer that one… The Big Bang was 13.75 ±0.11 billion years ago.
Modern astronomy has allowed us to answer questions that have been asked for as long as curious humans have looked at the universe around us. Curiosity as expressed in a poem is part of what we are as humans. That is why we build and maintain the big telescopes. Thanks Barbara!
You remember haiku? Three lines, the first line with five syllables, a second line with seven syllables, and a last line with five syllables. It may be poetry, but this is easy poetry to write, a short verse with an elegant cadence.
For an AstroDay activity, Keck held an astronomy haiku project. We have a stack of entries we are just now getting a chance to read. Winners are not yet decided, but I have found a few that are wonderful, and worth giving some recognition to.
I should be clear, these are my favorites! Not necessarily the contest winners.
Telescopes are great
They make you see very far
I love telescopes
-Madison Kobayashi (age 9)
Stars shining brightly
I look to them for comfort
In them I find you
Lacey is over 18 and not eligible for a prize in the contest. She knew this and enters a poem anyway. You have to love that!
The Moon is so bright
The stars help light up the night
Let’s lay out tonight
– Micah Timbresa (age 7)
I have not had a bad cold in quite a while. Wednesday last week I felt the first symptoms, a sore throat beginning. I expected it, Deb had been suffering for a couple days by then. Thursday morning it was inescapable, I called in sick to work. I hoped it would be over by the weekend, I had promised to help out with Astroday and present a lecture on behalf of Keck at the Mauna Kea VIS. This would be the second run across island to Hilo in as many weeks, after almost a year without visiting Hilo, funny how that works.
By Saturday morning things were better, but not great. So off to Hilo I went, a good dose of decongestant improving the situation. I may not have been at 100%, but I had commitments to keep.
Astroday is always fun, everyone from the astronomy community setting up tables and educational exhibits throughout the Prince Kuhio Plaza Mall in Hilo. At this point I know so many of the folks there, even the guys from Hilo I only meet a few times each year. The event is really designed for kids, with plenty of activites and a little education mixed in.
I manned the Keck table for a couple hours until David relived me. We did the Astro Haiku contest again. Not bad, but it was a repeat of last year. We really need to get some science experiment bling for our table next year. I have some ideas for that.
The morning routine was predictable… Moments after the first notes from the alarm clock there would be a familiar thump at the foot of the bed. That would be followed by whiskers in the face. Time to get up and start the day, which included feeding the cat.
Not this morning, nor tomorrow, nor anytime soon…
Today I buried a cat that had been part of my life for 16 years.
No more expectant eyes standing on the corner of the bed, demanding a skritch while I was attempting to dress for the day. Inevitably sitting atop of whatever clean shirt I had put there moments before. Gone is the purr from beside me while I attempt to get to sleep. I remember an escape artist that defeated my ever more elaborate barriers to keep a litter of kittens safely in a linoleum floored kitchen. I remember hot days of Tucson sun, lying in the shade of the old tangerine tree. I remember hours of yowling as we drove to San Diego, the first leg of the move to Hawai’i.
I picked her from the litter, the little grey furball. Named for the star Epsilon Canis Majoris, Adhara, sometimes spelled Adara. This star was once the brightest star in the Earth’s sky, though it has faded as it has drifted away from Earth over the eons.
Now, all we have in an empty house and freshly turned earth beneath an adenium in the front yard.
My first computer was an Apple II+, I left home with an Apple IIe, and for a few years used a Fat Mac then a Macintosh LC. I carry an iPhone, my little iPod Nano looks quite worse for wear, and I am typing this on an iPad 2. Few people have had the impact on my personal life as Steve Jobs.
We constantly receive news of deaths… newsmakers, celebrities, sport heroes. Most mean little or nothing to me. Today’s news connects in a very unexpected way. Steve Jobs was a geek like me. One of the first icons of my generation to go. The products made by Apple have impacted my life in so many ways. While typing this I am taking stock of what he meant to me, and to our technological society. It is difficult to understate his impact. I hope that Apple can continue to innovate without his vision.
A substantial portion of my life is now online. In addition to my writing and photography here, I read a number of other blogs. Indeed, much of my view of the world comes from the wide variety of information sources I consume.
The era of a few authoritative news sources (newspapers, network TV, etc.) serving large segments of the public is gone. Perhaps, while this may still be true for the generations of folks who grew up with this arrangement, it is certainly not true for younger generations who have become accustom to the wide variety of information sources available today. We select our news and information sources from a bewildering array of choices. Who we are is reflected in what sources we choose.
In addition to utilizing these new services, an increasing number of people choose to contribute to the dialog. Through removing the traditional barriers, technology allows anyone to begin publishing. Websites and blogs, social networks and video services, permit any voice to be heard, widely distributed and shared with a worldwide audience.
Many news organizations are struggling to come to grips with this new model of information. This was the theme of today’s symposium. A day of seminars and discussions into this new world of journalism.
Assembled by the journalism department at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, the symposium brought together journalists and bloggers from across the state. An impressive array of names, with many of the most notable figures in Hawaiian media. Together in the same room to discuss a wide variety of issues facing the news business today.
Along with the discussions there were a number of seminars on media basics. A welcome opportunity for a rank amateur such as myself. Unfortunately these were all too brief, as we hurried from room to room through a day packed with events.
A number of the presenters brought their personal experience of living through the tumult of this transition. Folks who had pursued careers in traditional journalism, now finding themselves having to adapt to new media, and new business models. Lives upended by change, stories of loss, and how they are coping, or even taking advantage of the new opportunities. More importantly, as they enter into this new era they have attempted to bring with them the core values of traditional media, of integrity and pursuit of the story.
I may be a mere blogger, but there is always something to learn. Particularly when offered an opportunity like this symposium. I spent today learning. Learning about the business of journalism. Exploring the issues involved with providing an indispensable public service. And seeing, if dimly, where we may be going as a society. A society defined by information and what we do with that information.
(My thanks to Tiffany, who spearheaded this event. She was everywhere and kept everything moving. Well done!)
As the big front-end loader approached my borrowed trailer with a full scoop I expected the operator to carefully dump just enough for a load. No… he dumped it all. The trailer disappeared in a cloud of dust and an avalanche of shredded mulch. As the cloud cleared, I saw that the trailer was nearly entirely buried. The loader operator cheerfully called out to me, and with a smile he asked if I wanted another scoop.
“Umm… Uh… I don’t think I need any more. Thanks!?!” A little shocked, I gazed at the pile of mulch hitched to my vehicle and wondered how I was going to get it out, profoundly glad I had remembered to bring a shovel.
Monday morning comes with a round of meetings. The entire department sitting down to plan activities for the week. In about ten minutes I need to set up for a technical presentation, my Power Point file on the thumb drive beside a pad of paper. It is just past the opening niceties that my cell phone rings, an abrupt interruption that stops all conversation around the table. It takes a few seconds to fumble the phone out of the belt pouch, stabbing the button on the side to silence the cheerful and yet unwelcome tune.
Looking at the number on the little screen I take a deep breath, reading no further than the area code before all thoughts of the meeting fade. This is the morning my father is in surgery, a heart bypass operation. It is not his first, the family went through this same event many years ago, but he is older, a worry is there, coloring all emotions. The last times I have seen my father he has seemed to tire a little more easily, looked a little older. Unable to join my mother and I in a swim out to the reef, turning around part way out to sit on the beach instead. Opting not to travel to the summit and the thin air of 13,600ft for a tour of the telescope where I work.
We are planning another vacation to Alaska this coming summer. A trip that will bring together close family who are normally spread across half a continent and more. Twenty two days on a rented boat out of Juneau, fishing, cruising and watching bears, glaciers and whales. But most importantly spending time with my family, something I all too seldom do. Chasing dreams and working at the observatory in Hawai’i has a price, years spent far from family.
For a few seconds after the phone is silenced I can do nothing but stare at the number. I need to return this call, but am loath to do so. Sliding out of the conference room I feel my co-workers’s eyes following. Once in the hall I take a breath and attempt to remember the keys needed to redial the last caller. For a moment the sequence escapes me, my mind far beyond the keypad. I hit end to reset the phone and start again.
The phone rings, and continues to ring, I hold my breath as it takes far too long for someone to answer. Finally I hear my mother’s voice, a smooth and normal tone that puts fears to rest even before her words have meaning. The news is good, everything went well, he is in recovery and should be be receiving guests shortly. I return to the meeting, making my apologies, turn on the projector and begin to load the file into the laptop.
There is a boat and a fishing pole waiting in Alaska this summer, I will be there.
I enjoyed moonrise tonight on the way home, and then enjoyed it again. The first was just after leaving Waimea, a golden full Moon rose over a band of clouds, a beautiful sight as I drove home from work. My drive then takes me deep into the shadow of Mauna Kea, the Moon disappearing behind the bulk of the mountain. A second moonrise found me about ten miles further down the road, with that golden orb rising over the summit. Two beautiful moonrises to grace the end of a long day.
Venus was visible in the golden glow of sunset, mercury right below if you knew to look for it. I saw no sign of Saturn which should have been a ways below the other two, it was probably hidden by a band of clouds that occupied the right spot.
Yes, I did say I was driving home from work on a Saturday. One of the guys on the crew is out with a bad back, and I worked a couple more days on the summit to cover. I was performing some procedures I had never done before, optical alignments in preparation for using the interferometer that night. As a result I will have spent five out of seven days on the summit, quite a bit more than my usual two days a week. I get a day off tomorrow, then back at it Monday. Even tomorrow will not be completely a day off, with an interferometer run in progress there will be some work I need to do from home to check the systems and insure they are ready for the night.
Hopefully the phone stays silent through the night.