Monitoring the TMT Contested Case

I have not had a chance to attend any of the contested case meetings, they are taking place in Hilo on workdays. Following along by reading all of the court documents is almost as good, maybe better. Big Island Video news has also posted quite a few videos of the proceedings where you can watch and get a feel for the tone and process of the hearings.

TMT Rendering
An overhead view of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope, credit TMT Observatory Corporation
All of the filings are available online, posted to the DLNR website. There are now over two hundred filings, with at least a few added almost every day. They detail the legal maneuverings of all of the parties as they make claims and counterclaims over every issue in the case.

It is clear that the telescope opponents have a couple basic strategies, neither of which address the issues. First is simply to delay and obstruct. Every decision is appealed and contested, from who is party to the case, to the selection of the hearing officer herself. Attempts to limit the discussion to the issue at hand have been vigorously contested by those who have other agendas.

One observation is that witness lists of telescope opponents are extensive, 39 persons on the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou (Doc-103 and Doc-104) list alone. To be fair, many of the the opponents do only have a few witnesses to call, but the sheer number of participants makes the resulting numbers a bit excessive. Reading through the various lists I fail to see where each witness will bring unique testimony to the case. In contrast the University and other supporters have very brief witness lists with only a handful of witnesses requested. Certain names do stand out… Dr. Sai, a well known sovereignty proponent. UH Chancellor David Lassner is present. Even Governor Ige has been listed, a request that is already subject to extensive legal wrangling.

A common theme in both the hearing room behavior and in the document opponents claim that they have been subject to personal attacks or harassment. Claims are made that they are “under duress” despite the fact that participation in this proceeding is entirely voluntary. Judge Amano has gone out of her way to explain methods by which opponents could participate in the hearings without being full parties in the process and subject to the associated paperwork and attendance burdens.

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The Sky for 2016

Looking ahead to sharing a fun and pretty 2016 with everyone. As usual you can come to Darker View for heads up on everything happening in the sky for 2016. I have spent the last month setting up pre-scheduled posts with all of the significant sky events for the year. We have a couple interesting eclipses, including a total eclipse across the Pacific, and some nice conjunctions. Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina continues to be naked eye into January and C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS should be marginally naked eye in June.

Young Moon
A very young moon over Waikoloa, this is only 26 hours after new, visible to the unaided eye as a sliver in the fading glow of sunset
Setting up all of the scheduled astronomy posts for the year allows me an excellent overview of what the coming year will bring. As I go though the schedules I have assembled a summary here to give my readers a preview of the year and to allow advance planning.

The Moon

Below are tables of all of the new and full moons of 2016 for those who prefer to plan early for those observing outings. Eclipses are noted with an asterisk in the tables and are explored more fully in the following section.

For those who like supermoons you will have to wait for later in the year when the orbit and lunar phase align. November will be the best supermoon of the year when full moon occurs only two hours away from perigee on the 14th of the month. For a few months either side of the November full moon you will find perigee occurring within a day or two of full, allowing for larger and brighter than average full moons.
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Using the Sacred

Much of the controversy that surrounds our mountain revolves around a few simple questions… Who defines what sacred means? What sacred means to me and what sacred means to you is often very different. Even within a group of adherents to a single faith the answer will often vary greatly. What can you and can you not do on a sacred site? Some believe that a sacred site should not be touched, or even entered. Others build great temples or shines over the site to which thousands or millions of people make a pilgrimage to visit.

Ancient and Modern
A radio telescope of the Very Long Baseline Array stands in the background of an ancient ahu atop Mauna Kea
In this controversy many have insisted that the mountain is sacred, thus any use is desecration. Yet the ancient Hawaiians did use this place. They built ahu, they mined for the hard stone prized for making adzes, tools that built the great ocean going waʻa. Is the top five hundred feet of the mountain sacred, or all of it? Are all of the homes and farms that dot the flanks of Mauna Kea a desecration? There is no simple answer here. Anyone who claims otherwise is not being truthful.

The Temple of Mauna Kea differs from other temples because it was not created by man. Akua built it for man, to bring the heavens to man. – Kealoha Pisciotta

“To bring the heavens to man”, is this not what the great telescopes do? Are these great instruments of science an appropriate use for this place? This would not be a question if there were other places where the view of the universe as clear as Mauna Kea. But such places are rare, and none quite so good as this mountain. This one place is unique, particularly suited for studying the heavens. Thus the clash of culture and science has been defined upon this mountain.

Yes, Mauna Kea is sacred. It is sacred for the honor and opportunity it provides us. Yes, Mauna Kea warrants the highest level of cultural sensitivity, but it should be a cultural sensitivity that respects and celebrates exploration of the universe and that is totally consistent with the historical record of Hawaiians and their search for knowledge. – Peter Apo

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Respecting the Sacred

I read every comment posted to DV, partly to moderate them. On a rare occasion I need to delete something that violates the rules. I also read them seriously, sometimes they contain something to think about, or even write about…

Mauna Kea Shadow
The shadow of Mauna Kea appears through the mist and haze at sunset

“People do not belong on the mountain if they don’t care about it’s sacredness.” – Anonymous comment on DarkerView

I will give whomever wrote this comment credit, he only asks that we care about the belief of others, not necessarily share them. This is an important distinction and a wise one. I have seen social media comments that take this much further, that claim an ownership of Mauna Kea and express the opinion that “haoles” should be excluded totally from the summit of Mauna Kea.

Personally, I think that anyone should be able to visit Mauna Kea, that no test for their personal beliefs should be necessary. The mountain does not belong to anyone one, or any specific group. It is a special place that belongs to all. It is important that we should care about the beliefs of others, to have some respect for those about us. But we need not share that belief.

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A Conflict of the Sacred

Opponents of astronomy on Mauna Kea often denigrate astronomy in a way that they would find totally objectionable if the same tactics were reversed and directed towards their cause. They repeatedly use words like meaningless, industrial, and claim the observatories exist only for profit. Those who make such claims fail to understand astronomy in much the same way they accuse telescope supporters of failing to understand their beliefs about Mauna Kea.

Sunset Gemini
The Gemini telescope prepares for the night, in the background is the CFHT telescope
They neglect to think that destroying the telescopes atop Mauna Kea would be seen as an act of desecration of enormous magnitude. To millions of people across the world the great telescopes represent something far more than simple buildings and telescopes. They are a concrete symbol for hope, an indication that not all is dismal and lost in this world, that one can still dream.

Each day we watch news of war that leaves cities laid waste, brutal sectarian violence, of economic strife, the wholesale destruction of the environment. When seeing news of people killing each other for no reason beyond minor differences in beliefs, it is so easy to despair that humanity is doomed to a dismal future.

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Perspectives on the Future of Mauna Kea

A lot of emotion and bandwidth has been swirling around our mountain this past month. It has been unfortunate that two otherwise positive forces have collided atop one summit. Last night the local community had a chance to listen to various perspectives in a more personal and reasoned forum. The Honokaʻa Peoples Theater, located on the slopes of Mauna Kea is the perfect place for this to happen. An evening of face to face discussion.

Hāwane Rios
Hāwane Rios addresses the audience at the Honokaʻa People’s Theater
While the issues surrounding Mauna Kea have captured international attention, this conversation was all the more powerful as it was limited to those of us who live and work on this mountain, many from families who have lived for generations in the mountain’s shadow. The conversation was all the more impressive in that it was conducted in the full spirit of aloha… There was no yelling, no waving signs, just respectful listening.

The format was simple, a presentation by Hāwane Rios, explaining her perspective on growing up in the traditions of Mauna Kea. This was followed by a presentation by Doug Simons, executive director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. After a 15 minute intermission there was another hour of panel discussion with questions provided by the audience. What started at 6pm went on until well after nine, with personal conversations that kept the theater a buzz until well after 11pm.

Unfortunately one of the featured speakers Lanakila Mangauli was unable to attend, having flown to Oahu for a hasty meeting with OHA and state officials. He was not completely absent, a Skype connection projected on the theater screen allowed him to give a short presentation at the start. After having watched video of his tirade (Yes, I will call it that!) at the TMT groundbreaking ceremony, I had been given a somewhat less than flattering opinion of him. The person who addressed the audience this night was much more impressive, giving an intelligent and reasoned argument to his cause. I wish he had been able to address the audience in person.

Panel Discussion
Doug Simons, Hāwane Rios, and Ruth Aloua participate in Perspectives on the Future of Mauna Kea, Apr 24th, 2015
Thus it was up to Hāwane Rios to present the traditional and cultural perspective, a role she filled spectacularly well. She relater her personal relationship with the mountain, whom she considers part of her family. Impressing upon the audience the importance of place, the importance of continuity to the culture. Her discussion was interspersed with song, chants composed in traditional form and a notable song with a more modern flair. I could attempt to describe her presentation further, but I do it no justice, I suggest you watch the video.

Doug Simons also related his personal connection to the mountain, having spent the last 30 years working, hunting and raising his family here in Waimea and on Mauna Kea. Starting with the great discoveries that have been accomplished by the telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Doug did an admirable job of covering the importance of the research done at the telescopes and why these great instruments belong to all of mankind.

Technical Crew
A plethora of computers illuminate the technical crew at Perspectives on the Future of Mauna Kea
The question and answer went smoothly, no real surprises in the questions or the answers. Asked of the future of the telescopes Doug reflected that there will probably be fewer telescopes in the future, but that those should be the best in the world, nothing else is worthy of Mauna Kea. Asked about her personal vision of the future of the summit Hāwane asked for nothing less that the dismantling of all of the telescopes.

I spent the evening listening and operating a production video camera we had brought over from Keck. CFHT, Subaru and Keck staff operated a battery of audio/visual gear, live casting the event on YouTube, recording video for later editing and managing a Skype connection for Lanakila. I expect we should have good videos up shortly, they are definitely worth watching by anyone interested in the issues surrounding our mountain. The presentation by Hāwane should be worth watching just to hear her sing. I will put the links here as soon as they become available.

Update… Check out the video here.

The Sky for 2014

What is happening in the sky this year?

There are no exceptional sky events expected in 2014. A pair of good lunar eclipses, a decent Mars opposition, the usual meteor showers, and no bright comets predicted. There is one odd meteor shower that might provide some fireworks in May mentioned below. Otherwise there is always the possibility of a new discovery, a nova or supernova, or a new comet. For now this looks to be a routine year for sky watchers.

Mars during the 2005 opposition
Mars during the 2005 opposition


Venus is as always a fun planet to follow through the year. The brilliant morning or evening star is always notable when it passes other bright objects such as the Moon or Jupiter. In April and May Venus will pass both ice giants, Uranus and Neptune with under a degree of separation. In August it will be Jupiter, passing about 35′ away on August 14th. The approach will be even closer if you are able to observe the pair during daylight hours, closing to 12′ at 08:06HST on the 14th.

Mars will pass through opposition on April 8th this year. This is a relatively good viewing opportunity with the red planet appearing just over 15″ in size. Close approach will be a week later, on April 14th. On September 27th Mars will pass about 3° from Antares.

Jupiter and Saturn continue to be well separated in the sky. This results in one or the other being available for observation much of the year. We start with Jupiter in the evening sky until early July. Saturn is currently in the early morning sky, passing through opposition May 10th and available for observation in the evening sky for the latter half of the year.

Minor Planets

The minor planets Ceres and Vesta are quite close all year. So close they will experience opposition in the same week. The dance will take place with the constellation Virgo as the backdrop. 4 Vesta will pass through opposition on April 13th, only two days later 1 Ceres will do the same on the 15th. At the same time the planet Mars will be just a few degrees south of the pair, going through opposition on April 8th. I wonder if the astrologers have noticed this? If so I am sure they will attach some ridiculous speculations to the event. They do not usually pay attention to the minor planets.

Lunar Eclipse 28Aug2007
Total lunar eclipse, photo is a 8sec exposure with a Canon 20Da on a 90mm f/12 APO


There are two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses for 2014. An odd annular solar eclipse will be visible from Antarctica and Australia on April 29th. A deep partial solar eclipse will be visible across much of western North America on October 23rd. Neither will be visible from the islands.

The two lunar eclipses are more interesting. Both total eclipses will feature good magnitudes and the eclipses will both be visible in their entirety from Hawai’i. Better yet, the first eclipse will begin soon after sunset, providing an excellent viewing opportunity for outreach. Occurring on April 14th and October 7th, these will be the highlight of the year for eclipse aficionados.

Meteor Showers

2014 offers an interesting year for meteor watchers. Of the three most reliable showers it is the Quadrantids that will be seen to best effect in 2014, untroubled by moonlight. The Geminids will be partly obscured, while the Perseids will peak quite close to full Moon.

In addition to the traditional showers there are predictions for a new shower associated with Comet 209P LINEAR. In late May this debris stream may produce a strong, or even storm level meteor shower. Watch here for more information on this possible event.


While no spectacular comets are predicted for 2014 there are several decent comets available for telescopic observing or photography. Late summer and into early autumn look for comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS to peak around magnitude 6.

As usual you should keep tuned to Darker View for timely reminders of upcoming celestial events. Over a hundred posts are already entered and waiting for the appropriate date to pop up here, reminding you and I to keep looking up.

Oregon Star Party 2013

The plan is simple, a vacation combining a visit to my family and a run to Oregon Star Party. I miss doing the larger regional star parties, six telescopes is a big star party on the island. OSP would feature hundreds of telescopes, speakers, and hopefully dark skies. I also volunteered as a speaker, may as well bring and share little Keck experience.

Andrew and the Galaxy
The author taking astrophotos under the Milky Way Galaxy
Heading to a major star party takes some planning. Worse, I would be doing this with what could be packed for airline travel. The answer would be to implement my usual star party plan… Set up for astrophotography, this would allow vising other telescopes while my camera ran under computer control. Good astrophotography can also be done with relatively small equipment.

The site is quite remote, no nearby hardware store to replace a missing bolt, no internet connection to allow download of a missing driver. The setup would have to work with what was packed to start with. Several iterations of packing showed that two cases would be required to carry the setup. An ancient hard suitcase I have had since my Air Force days, and a hard equipment case purchased years ago for a portable telescope I have yet to build. At least both had wheels and could be hauled by one person through an airport terminal.

After a few very nice days visiting with my parents I steal away in the camper for the drive to OSP. Four hours sees me over the Cascades, into the Ochoco Mountains east of Prineville. It is a very pleasant drive, a beautiful day, open roads, Mt. Hood soaring over the trees that line the highway. The sort of driving you just can not do on the island, the sort of vacation I grew up with.

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