Connecting the Community

This island is a small community, anything that happens is likely to involve someone you know, or a friend of theirs. There are often only a one to three degrees of separation between you and nearly every event that makes the local news.

Mauna Kea Wreck
A wrecked Toyota pickup truck about a mile below Hale Pohaku
Even someone who has not grown up here seems to become quickly enmeshed in the community… One day I hear news of a body being discovered on a remote Kohala coastline by kayakers. The next day at work I ask Peggi about her husband’s kayak trip… As you guessed, they found the body. This may seem unusual, but here these sort of linked events are commonplace, amplified by the small community effect.

It is amazing how fast information moves from mauka to makai, the grapevine is very well connected on this island. This connectedness is accelerated by social media. Where once you would have to wait hours or days for official confirmation, or a newspaper report, we now know immediately.

There are specific places everyone goes for this type of informations. Two notable Facebook groups cover island happenings, Big Island Thieves and Big Island Popo Alert.

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Neptune at Opposition

Today the planet Neptune will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise. If you are looking to observe Neptune, it is currently shining at magnitude 7.8 in the center of the constellation Aquarius.

As the outer planets Uranus and Neptune move so slowly across the sky, the timing of oppositions is driven by the Earth’s orbit and occur each year at nearly the same time. Neptune’s orbital period is 164.8 years, taking over a century and a half to circle the celestial globe once. As Neptune was discovered on 1846, it has completed a little over one orbit since discovery.

The Impact of Totality

Having recently viewed a total solar eclipse I have been thinking about the experience. What it was like to observe first hand a truly incredible spectacle of nature? A total solar eclipse is about as dramatic an event our world can produce.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017
The 2017 total solar eclipse as photographed from central Oregon
This is not my first total solar eclipse, but that first eclipse was back in 1979, occurring 38 years ago, my memories dimmed by the passage of time. This event is still bright in my mind, the memories bolstered by numerous photographs and a couple video records.

The experience was astonishing. For the first thirty seconds or so I simply sat in amazement, observing the eclipse and the world around me. Despite old memories and numerous photos I was still amazed by the sight. I knew what was coming, but I was to some extent unprepared for the sight before me. Eventually I gathered my thoughts and took some photos before the fleeting moments of totality expired.

In these modern times we rarely encounter a natural phenomena we are completely unprepared for. Prior to the event we have seen photographs or video, read descriptions from others. We generally know what we are about to encounter beforehand, or at least have a name and a cause we can understand when caught by surprise.

Imagine if that was not the case, consider seeing a total solar eclipse when you have never seen one, never even heard of such a thing, and do not know something is about to happen.

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A Night in the Meadow

This little meadow is is only a couple acres. Along one side is a spring where crisp water seeps from the ground and marks the beginning of a creek. Along the top the last few hundred feet of the paved road ends at a junction of rougher roads that lead further into the forest.

Grant's Spring Under Stars
The meadow at Grant’s Spring under northern stars
At the very center of the meadow a large snag stands alone, broken off twenty five feet above the ground, a tangle of limbs on all sides. This old snag is a dark sentinel in the night, almost unreal and a bit eerie in the gloom, it seems to move when you are not looking.

The clearing is surrounded by seventy foot high trees. Pine, fir, and larch are all represented in the dense forest that covers much of the ridgeline. This limits the view, blocking objects low on any horizon. The tall trees also provide a stage above which the stars rise and set, sometimes blinking brightly as they pass behind branches.

There are simply no lights, no substantial civilization for fifty miles in any direction. There are no distant domes of light visible on the horizon to remind one of Edison’s terrible invention. There is just the darkness and the stars above.

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