It was a beach day today…
Exploring the islands
1940 Mauna Loa Eruption Film
Vintage film of Mauna Loa eruption during 1940 by Harold T. Stearns, a USGS Hydrologist-Volcanologist.
An eruption of Mauna Loa is something everyone fears and hopes for. This enormous volcano will erupt again, almost certainly within our lifetimes, possibly even the next decade. The last eruption was in 1984, the mountain has been quiet for well over two decades now, an uncharacteristically long period of quiescence. When it does erupt this volcano is capable of emitting huge volumes of lava, that reach the sea quite quickly down the steep slopes A dangerous mountain to be wary of.
Damon posted this some time ago, definitely worth re-posting here.
Keck in Motion Scene Guide
I have been getting a few questions about the video. To answer a few of them I have compiled a guide to the scenes. Some quick explanations to what you are seeing, information on the camera used as well as the exposure information.
The video is a combination of two techniques. Many scenes were filmed as standard video then accelerated during editing to allow the motion to become clear. Examples of this are scenes of telescopes slewing and the interferometer delay lines moving.
Slower subjects, such as clouds or the stars moving across the sky, were photographed as time lapse. Here a large number of still images were taken. These are then processed and converted to video using Photoshop CS5 before loading into the video editing software, Adobe Premiere Elements. To construct the time lapse sequences sometimes required thousands of separate images, quickly filling memory cards and exhausting batteries. After dark it is long exposure time lapse that is used, with individual exposures often 15 seconds to one minute long.
A Bright Glow from Halema’uma’u
It caught everyone’s attention, suddenly the southern sky lit up, a bright glow coming from the direction of our volcano. This occurred about 21:45 last night, we were getting ready to put away the telescopes, ending a great evening at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center.
The red glow was unmistakeable, something was happening at Halemau’uma’u. We moved to where we could see the brightly lit plume over the volcano, conversation buzzing with questions, what is going on?
Our guess is that something, most likely a large rockfall, disturbed the lava lake at the bottom of Halema’uma’u crater. The lake, normally crusted over and dark, can be easily disturbed. If something happens to break up the crust, the glow of this very hot lava is surprisingly bright. Bright enough that we were surprised by the show from our vantage point about 30 miles away.
What happened? I will have to read the daily report later today and see if anything out of the ordinary is noted. A nice event, and a treat for the tourists still at the VIS near closing. The glow faded over the next 20-30 minutes. After closing the VIS and beginning my drive back down the mountain, it had faded enough to be barely visible again.
My Canon G11 is not normally a good after dark camera, but given the bright moonlight, and the brighter glow from the volcano, it did fairly well…
Update! Today’s volcano report indicates a series of large rockfalls occurred last night.
The Morning Commute
When heading to Waimea this time of year, I am driving right at sunrise. Sometimes you just have to stop and take the photo, or in this case a full set of photos for a panorama, even if I risk being late for the truck to the summit… (Click image to view properly)
It is that time again! Time for Ocean Count 2012… A morning spent spotting and counting whales for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
The sanctuary staff recruits teams to crew sites all around the islands. All together, 61 teams with over 950 volunteers observed whales from Kauai to Hawai’i today. Twenty one teams set up to cover the Big Island from South Point to Opolu Point. The procedure is to observe whales from 8am to noon, recording the behavior in half hour time slots. Every blow, dive, breach or other activity is recorded. The technique is to work in teams of two, one person spotting, binoculars in hand, the other writing as the whale activity is called out.
Deb Cooper counting whales north of Kawaihae
A bluff overlooking Pelekane Bay has been our site for the last three years. Mile Marker 7 is a perfect place to observe whales. A bluff well above the water. A rocky knoll covered with lawn chairs, coolers, and well over twenty observers peering through binoculars.
This year was much like the last several years. We counted dozens upon dozens of whales from the MM7 site, while other sites around the island are lucky to see a handful. There are some sites that did not see a whale all day. We count as fast as we can write, activity everywhere.
Laser Return Photometery
A different use for amateur astrophotography gear.
An amateur CCD camera can do more than take pretty pictures. There is no reason why any decent telescope, however small, and a CCD camera can not be used to do real science, or real engineering in this case.
The goal of the night was to perform proper photometry on the laser returns with independent equipment. We want to quantify the performance of the Keck adaptive optics laser systems. We launch two powerful lasers into the sky, one from each telescope, to allow analysis of the atmospheric distortions through which the telescope is observing. Using the data the system can correct for this atmospheric distortion and create much sharper images of distant stars and galaxies.
The lasers pass through a layer of sodium atoms about 90km (55miles) above the ground. There the 589nm yellow light excites these sodium atoms creating a glowing beacon, what we call the laser return. This return is what we look at to analyze atmospheric distortion. A brighter return allows better data and better performance of the system.
Both the Keck 1 and Keck 2 lasers in operation under the light of a nearly full Moon
Amateur astrophotography gear is perfectly capable of doing this task. A portable telescope, a proper CCD camera, combined with care to acquire calibrated images. All that I needed to add to the setup was a photometric V filter.
It was a perfect night for it, clear, dry and cold. Best of all, there was no wind to bounce the telescope around and chill anyone working outside. The winds are nearly constant atop at 14,000ft peak, calm nights are unusual, I was lucky indeed.
I setup the telescope atop a crust of ice and snow. The snow was convenient as it allowed me to set down gear on a cleaner surface than the gritty volcanic cinder underneath, keeping everything quite a bit cleaner. The altitude and cold made setup and breakdown a slow, laborious process, and added unique difficulties. I had to be very careful moving the heavy gear, so as not to slip on the icy snow. When I went to move the telescope tripod I found it frozen into the snow and cinder! I had to heave hard to break it free.
A Couple Fellows
Some Holiday Diving
Boat dives are always a treat. We generally shore dive, where the only costs are the tank fills and a little gas to drive to the site. Many sites along the Kohala Coast are easily reached from shore. There are a number of great sites that are more difficult to reach, sites for which a boat provides a nice alternative. When going with a dive boat you also have the crew to assist in rigging gear and getting in and out. They also provide drinks, snacks and friendly conversation while you wait through a surface interval between dives. A holiday treat? A mutual Christmas gift? Whatever you want to call it, we booked a dive with Denise and Dave from Blue Wilderness for a day of diving.
There were several divers beside Deb and myself. Ben, from London, had left his girlfriend back at the resort for a morning of diving. A family from Saskatchewan was escaping the winter with a couple weeks in Hawai’i and a morning of diving. The wife and daughter were simply snorkeling. The father, an ex-navy diver, was introducing his son Brett to the sport.