Viewing the ISS

Occasionally we get phone calls. People have an astronomy question and decide to call an observatory to get an answer. I would caution that this is generally not the best way to get an answer, Googling the question or looking it up on Wikipedia is much more likely to result in a usable answer. Usually our front desk will politely defer the caller to some other source, Shelly is very good at doing this.

The International Space Station and the docked space shuttle Endeavour
The International Space Station and the docked space shuttle Endeavour
Shelly is also a very nice lady who occasionally takes pity on some caller. Or the caller is very polite and asks very nicely. Often she forwards the call to me, knowing that I can usually answer these sort of questions.

What sort of telescope can be used to view the ISS?

At least the question did not involve aliens or NASA cover-ups, those question would have gotten the polite brush off from Shelly.

For someone who is inexperienced in using telescopes this not the easy place to start. Most of us who have been using telescopes for decades usually do not even try to do this. The space station is quite small and would require higher magnification to see well. It is also moving quite quickly across the sky. The combination of these two factors makes viewing the ISS a real challenge, to put it politely!

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Autumnal Equinox

Fall equinox occurs today at 04:21HST. Today there will be little difference between the length of the night compared to number of daylight hours. This is the first day of fall as marked by many cultures in the northern hemisphere.

This year many calendars will mark September 23rd as the beginning of fall, and so it is for much of the world. Here in Hawaiʻi the equinox actually occurs on the 22nd when considering the time zone differences.

2016 Solstices and Equinoxes
Perihelion Jan 2 22:49UT Jan 2 12:49HST
Vernal Equinox Mar 20 04:30UT Mar 19 18:30HST
Summer Solstice Jun 20 22:34UT Jun 20 12:34HST
Apehelion Jul 4 16:24UT Jul 4 06:24HST
Autumnal Equinox Sep 22 14:21UT Sep 22 04:21HST
Winter Solstice Dec 21 10:44UT Dec 21 00:44HST
Source: USNO data Services


Political Bones

This weeks news that human remains had been placed within the TMT construction site was a surprise to many. Apparently a well known protester, Palikapu Dedman, had placed an iwi, human remains, into an ahu constructed last year on the site. He did this twice! Apparently the first set of remains had vanished, so he replaced them with a second set.

An ancient ahu (shrine) atop Mauna Kea with the summit in the background
Outrage was quickly expressed at this revelation in various online forums, the conversation on Facebook was particularly scathing. Condemnation being particularly intense from other Hawaiian commentators that can not fathom how traditional values could be violated like this. The use of ancestral bones as political playing pieces is something many found utterly disgraceful, a sentiment I share.

While much of the local community was quick to express disapproval of this action, notable TMT opponents do not appear to have condemned this outrageous action. Indeed I have yet to see any condemnation for the act on any of the opposition sites or Facebook pages. Yes, I have looked. They link the article, but there are no comments. Even more telling, it appears that many in the local Hawaiian community were aware of this for some time now, but have been silent on the issue.

In addition to the recent revelations in the papers concerning the iwi in the TMT site ahu. There is a claim of another burial in a contested case filing. Dated Sept 2nd, we have document 252 “Fergerstrom Notice of Family Burial Claim Under the Proposed TMT Site” filed by Harry Fergerstrom claiming that a family burial is located “on the access road to the TMT”. The filing is accompanied by a DLNR Burial registration form application.

It seems to be a common belief that the summit is a burial ground. it is certainly an idea that those protesting the TMT are trying to push, they have made this claim in the past. The most recent push may be an attempt to capitalize on the Standing Rock DAPL pipeline controversy that has so much media attention.

It’s important to remember that Mauna Kea is a burial ground – Kealoha Pisciotta quoted in Civil Beat

Mauna Kea is site of mass burial of iwi for centuries. – Pohaku Keaau comment on the Hilo Tribune website

The problem with this argument is that the summit does not appear to have ever been a significant burial ground. There are only a handful of confirmed burials on the mountain and a couple dozen suspected burials, mostly at lower elevations (below 10,000 feet) and none within a mile of the TMT site.

Ahu in the Road
An ahu built in the downhill lane of the Mauna Kea summit access road
There are a couple old references that mention burials at the summit, but there is scant on the ground evidence to support this, it is very possible that they are referring to the lower elevation areas that are known. Hawaiian burials are very common along coastlines that were heavily populated in pre-contact times, there is little mystery in how the ancient Hawaiians buried their dead.

The TMT site itself is mostly solid rock outcropping, there is scant place to hide a burial. The TMT site has been repeatedly examined for burials by various parties, none has been found, at least nothing historical, discounting these recent planted burials. And while the proposed access road to the TMT does cross the lower edge of a cinder cone, this particular path has been previously disturbed by an older road and is unlikely to hide anything.

What a lot of people do not realize is how much the cinder moves about, slowly slumping down the sides of the pu’u under the power of frost heaving and solifluction. If there were “mass burials” of iwi secreted on the summit over the centuries they would not be a secret any longer. We would have beautifully preserved bones appearing out of the cinders on a routine basis. In my decade on the summit I have never seen or heard of such an event.

No doubt the burial ground argument will have traction with those inclined to believe despite the lack of any evidence to the contrary. We will be hearing more on this issue, a new and utterly disgraceful maneuver by TMT opponents.

Macrophotography With Extension Tubes

One of the advantages of a mirrorless camera, like the EOS-M, is the very shallow backfocus requirement. The distance from the lens mount to the sensor is quite small, allowing use of just about any series of lenses on the market. All that is needed is the correct adapter, a need that several specialty manufacturers have addressed with products. The result is that the camera is useful in a wide range of photographic experiments and projects.

Gecko & Plumeria
A gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) on a plumeria blossom
This includes older lenses from years past such as the Canon manual focus FD lenses or the Leica M lenses from decades ago. I have a number of these excellent lenses, mostly Nikon and Canon, the fast primes once treasured by photographers for their optical quality. Because these old lenses are not suited for use with modern DSLR’s they are often relegated to eBay and discount shelves in used camera stores. This does not mean they are obsolete, there are creative uses still available for these classic lenses.

I have had fun simply shooting with these old primes and the EOS-M camera. Sometimes I will grab a single lens and just go someplace to play with the camera for half an hour, sort of a self imposed creative exercise. Using one of these manual focus lenses brings back memories of my first years of film photography, before the days of auto-focus.

Combine these old lenses with an extension tube, and the rig becomes a macro-photography setup capable of fairly high magnification.

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Lava Gallery

After this latest trip to see the lave I was recalling all of my previous effort to photograph the lava. It has resulted in quite a few beautiful photographs, many of which have appeared here on DarkerView…

About the Jobs

Note: This is an editorial that I wrote a while back. It was originally published in Civil Beat on August 18th, 2016. It appears here in the original form (pre-editor) and with far better photos…

Ancient and Modern
A radio telescope of the Very Long Baseline Array stands in the background of an ancient ahu atop Mauna Kea
The construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope has become a symbol of the many issues that swirl in these islands. It is an argument that touches the fundamental question as to who we are and where we are going.

While many frame the argument as one between science and culture, others frame it as one of development versus culture. Their premise is that somehow building another telescope is destroying local culture. They overlook the opportunity the telescopes represent, that the right economic development can support a community, preserve a culture.

Supporters of TMT highlight the jobs that the telescope will bring… “It is not about the jobs!” is the reply from opponents. Of course it is. You cannot maintain a culture in poverty. You cannot maintain a culture when your keiki leave to seek opportunity elsewhere. Leave the island behind… Leave the culture behind. Economic struggle is the greatest single threat to a local culture, a threat that cannot be overstated.

The lack of economic opportunity has an enormous impact on a local community. The stress of struggling for a living, of getting by on a low paying service industry job can be destructive to families and individuals. Drugs use, family abuse, all of the social ills so often identified in low income areas are as destructive to the culture as they are to the person. The statistics tell the story… Hawai’i Island routinely tops rest of the state in numbers that are not good…. Lowest per capita income, highest number of children living in poverty, unemployment and more.

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Full Moon

Full Moon
Full Moon taken 27Aug2007, 90mm f/12 APO and Canon 20Da
Full Moon will occur today at 09:05HST.

This full moon will feature a penumbral lunar eclipse visible across part of Australia, Central Asia, and eastern Europe. No part of this eclipse will be visible from the Hawaiian Islands. No worries here, we are not missing much, this penumbral eclipse involves only a modest dimming of the Moon.

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Mauna Kea Adze Quarry

The AO system was broken, nothing really bad, but something I would need to go up and fix. Reading the nightlogs each morning there are occasionally surprises like this, a sudden re-planning of an otherwise lazy Sunday.

A workshop in the Mauna Kea adze quarry

I suspected that the fix would not take me long at all. But I would be on the mountain… What to do with the rest of the day? I load camera and hiking gear along with my backpack of tools. If I do complete the job quickly I will go hiking. The Mauna Kea adze quarry springs to mind as a likely spot to spend a few hours.

The ancient Hawaiians had no access to metal on these volcanic islands. What they did have was a source of very hard volcanic rock. High on Mauna Kea there were once glaciers, a place where the fury and heat of the volcano met ice. Cooling quickly in the icy realm the lava formed a dense, fine grained rock suitable for making tools.

The rock from this quarry could be shaped and ground into a number of tools, particularly adzes that could be used to cut wood or carve the great ocean going canoes. Tools made from this particular rock were so prized that they have been found in archaeological sites on distant islands across the Pacific.

I have known how extensive the adze quarry is for years. The numbers are abstract, number of find sites mapped, square kilometers of area, just numbers on paper. What I found was quite different than what I was expecting, nothing conveys the actuality of being there.

I was amazed at the sheer size of the piles of flakes. These are sites that were worked for centuries, each workshop accumulating many tons of waste rock flake to tumble down the slope. Having worked with my hands continually over my lifetime, I know how hard hand labor like this is. I stood amazed at the sheer amount of human effort it took to accumulate these piles.

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