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Astronomers Discover Three Earth-Like Planets

Extrasolar planets are being discovered by the hundreds, but are any of these newfound worlds really like Earth? A planetary system recently discovered by the Kepler spacecraft will help resolve this question. The system of three planets, each just larger than Earth, orbits a nearby star called EPIC 201367065. The three planets are 1.5-2 times the size of Earth, and the outermost planet orbits on the edge of the so-called “habitable zone,” where the temperature may be just right for liquid water, believed necessary to support life, on the planet’s surface. “We’ve learned in the past year that planets the size and temperature of Earth are common in our Milky Way galaxy,” explains University of Hawaii astronomer Andrew Howard. “We also discovered some Earth-size planets that appear to be made of the same materials as our Earth, mostly rock and iron.” [...]

Feds Asked to Boost Hawaii Macadamia Nut Exports

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Services (FAS) calling on the agency to provide greater visibility to Hawaii macadamia nuts on its export list to foreign markets. Hawaii farmers in the macadamia nut industry generated more than $36 million in revenue in 2013. Growth in this industry would expand business and employment opportunities in rural Hawaii communities. Industry leaders like Troy Keolanui, John Cross, and Richard Schnitzler applauded Congresswoman Gabbard’s efforts to encourage FAS to prioritize macadamia nut exports. “Promoting Hawaiian Macadamia nuts to foreign markets is a big boost to our industry, and we are grateful to Congresswoman Gabbard for again taking the lead to represent the farmers of Hawaii,” said Troy Keolanui, co-owner of the Hilo-based OK Farms. [...]

Thirty Meter Telescope groundbreaking set

A groundbreaking and blessing ceremony for the next-generation Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, launching a multi-national $1.4 billion project near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Although access to the TMT construction site will be limited due to the area’s sensitive environment and harsh physical conditions, the ceremony will be fully accessible via a live-stream webcast. George Takei, noted actor, director and author, known for his role in the television series Star Trek, will present pre-recorded science segments during the live webcast. Dr. Robert Hurt, researcher, science podcaster and lecturer, will host the webcast. [...]

Latest crew set for 8-month simulated Mars mission

The six astronaut-like crew members of the next Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission starting October 15 will be isolated in their dome habitat for eight months. This mission is twice as long as any previously completed at the Hawaiʻi site, and second only to Russia’s Mars500 experiment in total duration. Also, for the first time, HI-SEAS will have a female commander. In NASA history, only two women have ever commanded the spaceship: astronauts Eileen Collins in July 1999, and Pamela Melroy in November 2007. For true space flight, the commander role requires previous astronaut experience as well as at least 1,000 hours experience piloting a jet aircraft. For HI-SEAS, Commander Martha Lenio was selected based on feedback from fellow crew members and from instructors of the National Outdoor Leadership Skills course that both NASA and HI-SEAS require of their teams in training. [...]

Microbes touted as key to future agriculture

A local technology commercialization company is working with two mainland biotechnology firms to encourage the adoption of microbial treatments to boost agricultural productivity while reducing water consumption as well as cutting the use of fertilizers and pesticides. “Everything we’ve been taught about farming is incorrect,” declares Vincent Kimura, president of Inovi Green. “Historical and current agricultural processes of crop fertilization and soil tilling are falling out of favor, damaging ecosystems and producing diminishing returns. Environmentally-friendly microbial treatments have evolved to do this work far more effectively.” [...]

Hawaii scientist maps, names ‘Laniakea’ galaxy cluster

An international team of astronomers has defined the contours of the immense supercluster of galaxies containing our own Milky Way. They have named the supercluster “Laniakea,” meaning “immense heaven” in Hawaiian. The team was led by University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer R. Brent Tully, who recently shared the 2014 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2014 Victor Ambartsumian International Prize. The paper explaining this work is the cover story of the September 4 issue of the prestigious journal Nature. [...]

Hiki Nō Festival showcases student video stories

The public is invited to view outstanding student-produced video stories on the big screen at PBS Hawaii’s first-ever Hiki Nō Festival. The featured stories, produced last school year, have aired on PBS Hawaii’s student news program, Hiki Nō, and are nominated in this year’s Hiki Nō Awards. Hiki Nō is Hawaii’s first statewide student news network, made up of 86 public, private and charter schools from across the islands. Through the production of video news stories about their schools and communities, students gain valuable workforce and life skills, while teachers engage their students in hands-on, collaborative learning. [...]