A Crisp Night at Kaʻohe

I was a bit concerned as I drove to the site, a heavy fog all the way up Saddle Road persisted as I turned off on the old Saddle Road to climb the ridge to Kilohana. It was not until halfway up the gravel access road that I broke out of the fog, just a hundred yards before the Kaʻohe site.

The restored 8" f/6 Cave Astrola under a dark sky at Kaʻohe
The restored 8″ f/6 Cave Astrola under a dark sky at Kaʻohe

On top of the fog it was gorgeous, a beautifully clear sky overhead with the first stars peeking out. Time to setup a telescope!

I brought the restored 8″ Cave Astrola expecting to spend the evening exploring the clusters and nebulae of the southern Milky Way in Scorpio or a bit further south. This rich region would be well positioned through the night.

We had a small group this particular evening, just six of us… Andre and Anna, Maureen, Andrew, Cliff, and myself set up by the gravel pile. There were pleasant conversations in the night, cookies and brownies to share, and views through each other’s telescopes.

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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).