KeckWatch App Fuels Fans of Astronomy

Today, W. M. Keck Observatory launched a new smartphone app to stoke the curiosity and wonder of astronomy. KeckWatch offers mankind’s collected knowledge of the cosmos on the screen of your iOS device. In addition to being able to easily identify stars and planets with both conventional and Hawaiian names, it offers a unique glimpse through the gigantic eyes of the Keck I and Keck II telescopes, the two largest and most scientifically productive telescope on Earth. The app was built by First Light Design, the makers of category-defining app Distant Suns, and can be can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store today. “Our work studying the cosmos these past two decades has led to remarkable understandings of our Universe and has placed Hawaii as the premiere location on Earth for astronomical research,” said Hilton Lewis, director of Keck Observatory. [...]

Solar Impulse Extends Hawaii Stay through April 2016

The solar powered airplane of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016, despite early efforts to repair the batteries which overheated in the record breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya to Hawaii. Following the longest and most difficult leg of the round-the-world journey — which lasted five days and five nights (117 hours and 52 minutes) — Solar Impulse will undergo maintenance repairs on the batteries due to damages brought about by overheating. “After checking what happened, we came to the conclusion that we preferred to change these batteries before going further in the flight around the world,” said Borschberg in a special interview with Bytemarks Cafe on Hawaii Public Radio that will air later today. “And it’s not so simple, it’s not like changing the batteries of a car, it’s a bit more complex, so it will take more time.” [...]

Lawmakers commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045

Hawaii lawmakers voted 74-2 today to pass the nation’s first 100% renewable energy requirement. The measure, House Bill 623, makes Hawaii a global leader in renewable energy policy by requiring that 100% of the islands’ electricity must be generated from renewable energy resources—such as wind, solar, and geothermal—no later than 2045. “Hawaii lawmakers made history today—not only for the state, but for the planet,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation. The measure, if enacted by Governor David Ige, would make Hawaii the first state in the nation with such a 100% renewable energy standard. Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to clear the path for 100% renewable energy, praised the move. “Passage of this measure is a historic step towards a fossil fuel free Hawaii,” said Mikulina. “This visionary policy is a promise to future generations that their lives will be powered not by climate-changing fossil fuel, but by clean, local, and sustainable sources of energy.” “We applaud the leadership of both the House and the Senate, and of the energy committee chairs, Rep. Chris Lee and Sen. Mike Gabbard, for helping make this historic policy a reality,” he added. [...]

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. [...]

Honolulu Neighborhood Board applications open

Beginning today, O‘ahu residents can file to run for a seat on their Neighborhood Board. “Serving on your Neighborhood Board presents the opportunity to create real change in your community, build a legacy, and network with other leaders,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “No one knows a neighborhood better than the people who live in it. I was honored to serve on both the Manoa and Kaimuki Neighborhood Boards.” Candidacy is open to O‘ahu residents who will be at least 18 years of age by February 20, 2015. Mailed forms must be postmarked by February 20 and received by February 27, 2015. This is also the deadline to for residents to register to vote in the Neighborhood Board elections. [...]

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. [...]