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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Only once before have I seen Jupiter and Venus this close, many years ago. Being close enough to fit in the same eyepiece field is quite interesting, particularly with enough magnification to see the moons and planet details well.

If you have not been paying attention the evening planet dance is in full swing, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all in close attendance.

This evening was the close approach of Jupiter and Venus. I set up a telescope briefly to capture the conjunction. More than a little overexposed, but you can see the moons of Jupiter this way…

Venus and Jupiter
Venus and Jupiter in conjunction on Aug 27, 2016. The star at lower right is Beta Virginis

Scientists Discover Massive Galaxy Made of 99.99 Percent Dark Matter

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

Using the world’s most powerful telescopes, an international team of astronomers has discovered a massive galaxy that consists almost entirely of Dark Matter. Using the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini North telescope – both on Maunakea, Hawaii – the team found a galaxy whose mass is almost entirely Dark Matter. The findings are being published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters today.

Dragonfly 44
The dark galaxy Dragonfly 44. Credit: Pieter Van Dokkum, Roberto Abraham Gemini, Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Even though it is relatively nearby, the galaxy, named Dragonfly 44, had been missed by astronomers for decades because it is very dim. It was discovered just last year when the Dragonfly Telephoto Array observed a region of the sky in the constellation Coma. Upon further scrutiny, the team realized the galaxy had to have more than meets the eye: it has so few stars that it quickly would be ripped apart unless something was holding it together.

To determine the amount of Dark Matter in Dragonfly 44, astronomers used the DEIMOS instrument installed on Keck II to measure the velocities of stars for 33.5 hours over a period of six nights so they could determine the galaxy’s mass. The team then used the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Maunakea in Hawaii to reveal a halo of spherical clusters of stars around the galaxy’s core, similar to the halo that surrounds our Milky Way Galaxy.

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Lava at the New Ocean Entry

The lava has been flowing into the ocean for a little over a month now and all my photographer friends are posting great photos. It is really past time I got myself down to Kalapana to see the lava. The real problem is that my vehicle has been in the shop and I had no way to carry the bike. The answer? Don wanted to make another go at it, his bike rack holds two! Can you pick me up on your way past Waikoloa?

61G lava flow ocean entry
The 61G lava flow ocean entry at Kamokuna under the light of a full Moon
While the lava is further from the end of the road than on my previous hikes, a full 4.5miles, it is actually easier to get to. When earlier flows looked like they would cut the main highway into Puna the county re-cut Chain of Craters road across the lava flows. The road is closed to motor vehicle traffic, but foot and bicycle traffic is allowed. This gives a direct access to the current 61G lava flow without having to cross country for miles across older flows.

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Cosmic Neighbors Inhibit Star Formation, Even in the Early-Universe

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

Galaxy cluster MACS J0416
Massive galaxy cluster MACS J0416 seen in X-rays (blue), visible light (red, green, and blue), and radio light (pink). Credit: NASA, CXC, SAO, G.Ogrean, STSCI, NRAO, AUI, NSF
The international University of California, Riverside-led SpARCS collaboration has discovered four of the most distant clusters of galaxies ever found, as they appeared when the Universe was only four billion years old. Clusters are rare regions of the Universe consisting of hundreds of galaxies containing trillions of stars, as well as hot gas and mysterious Dark Matter. Spectroscopic observations from the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope in Chile confirmed the four candidates to be massive clusters. This sample is now providing the best measurement yet of when and how fast galaxy clusters stop forming stars in the early Universe.

“We looked at how the properties of galaxies in these clusters differed from galaxies found in more typical environments with fewer close neighbors,” said lead author Julie Nantais, an assistant professor at the Andres Bello University in Chile. “It has long been known that when a galaxy falls into a cluster, interactions with other cluster galaxies and with hot gas accelerate the shut off of its star formation relative to that of a similar galaxy in the field, in a process known as environmental quenching. The SpARCS team have developed new techniques using Spitzer Space Telescope infrared observations to identify hundreds of previously-undiscovered clusters of galaxies in the distant Universe.”

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