To the Flow by Sea

There are four ways to get to the lava… You can hike it, you can bike it, fly to it, or go by sea. I had done all of the other ways, it was time to take a boat.

Lavafalls
Lava from the Kilauea volcano enters the ocean at Kamokuna

The 61G lava flow has been flowing into the sea at Kamokuna for several months now allowing the lava tour boat business to resume after a three year pause. I have biked to this flow, but a view from the water was an attractive option for photography. After multiple discussions with a few photographers I know I had decided to go out with Kalapana Cultural Tours, a local business with years of experience on these waters, a choice which proved to be a good one!

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​Mars Lost an Ocean’s Worth of Water

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

A primitive ocean on Mars once held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean, according to NASA scientists who measured signatures of water in the planet’s atmosphere using the most powerful telescopes on Earth including the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The results are being published in the journal Science on March 6, 2015.

Mars with Oceans
NASA scientists have determined that a primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean and that the Red Planet has lost 87 percent of that water to space. Credit: NASA/GSFC
The young planet would have had enough water to cover the entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 meters) deep. More likely, the water would have formed an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than a mile (1.6 kilometers).

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, first author of the paper and scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

The new estimate is based on detailed observations of two slightly different forms of water in Mars’ atmosphere. One is the familiar H2O, made with two hydrogens and one oxygen. The other is HDO, a naturally occurring variation in which one hydrogen is replaced by a heavier form, called deuterium.

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Sea Chair

A wonderful little film and a neat idea. I will not spoil the effect by explaining here. Watch the film!

Sea Chair from Studio Swine on Vimeo.

The film truly highlights the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean. Modern plastics do not decompose readily, but persist in the environment for decades. This is a problem that deserves more attention and should be in the mind of anyone who treasures our seas.

Apparently the biggest problem is not the large pieces of plastic like those used in making the chair, but rather the microplastics. Under the influence of wave and sunlight, plastic slowly breaks down into smaller and smaller bits. These are sand size or smaller granules that have come to pervade the entire ocean. The granules are easily ingested by the smaller creatures of the plankton community, the food on which all ocean life depends.

Walking a Hawaiian beach you see some plastic, even far from the major urban sources of this pollution. Walking the tide-line on any beach or cove reveals small bits of colorful plastic. There is not a lot, but it is always there.

Postcard from Hawai’i – Road to the Sea

Headed for work, at least I had plenty of time… Ahead of me on the hillside I could see a military convoy with dozens of cars trapped behind them on the steep grades. Not wanting to join the mess I pulled over to take some photos. The convoy will turn towards the new Saddle Road at the top, all I have to do is give them another five minutes and I will have open road.

Road to the Sea
Looking down Waikoloa Road to the ocean

Astronomers Open Window Into Europa’s Ocean

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

With data collected from the W. M. Keck Observatory, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomer Mike Brown — known as the Pluto killer for discovering a Kuiper-belt object that led to the demotion of Pluto from planetary status — and Kevin Hand from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found the strongest evidence yet that salty water from the vast liquid ocean beneath Europa’s frozen exterior actually makes its way to the surface.

The data suggests there is a chemical exchange between the ocean and surface, making the ocean a richer chemical environment, and implies that learning more about the ocean could be as simple as analyzing the moon’s surface. The work is described in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

The findings were derived from spectroscopy delivered from the Keck Observatory, which operates the largest and most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth.

“We now have the best spectrum of this thing in the world,” Brown says. “Nobody knew there was this little dip in the spectrum because no one had the resolution to zoom in on it before.”

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