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Astronomy & Space

Visualizing galaxy orbits in the local supercluster

Orbits of galaxies in the Local Supercluster. Credit: Brent Tully.

A team of astronomers from Maryland, Hawaiʻi, Israel and France has produced the most detailed map ever of the orbits of galaxies in our extended local neighborhood, showing the past motions of almost 1,400 galaxies within 100 million light years of the Milky Way. The team, including co-author Brent Tully of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi, reconstructed the galaxies’ motions from 13 …

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Exploring biofilms and the search for life on Mars

Green and purple biofilms hang from the walls of lava caves near Kīlauea caldera on Hawaiʻi Island. These, and other biofilms, may be similar to microbial life on early Earth and possibly an early Mars environment.

Rebecca Prescott, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoamicrobiology student who recently received her PhD, has won a prestigious National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship award for her project, “Survival in extreme environments through cooperation: biofilms and looking for life on Mars,” under the program Broadening Participation of Groups Underrepresented in Biology. “We are interested in how cooperative behavior, through chemical communication in bacteria, may help microbes survive …

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An interstellar visitor unmasked

This artist’s impression shows the first detected interstellar asteroid ʻOumuamua. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

In October, astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) made a stunning discovery with the Pan-STARRS1 telescope—the first interstellar object seen passing through our Solar System. Now, an international team lead by IfA Astronomer Karen Meech has made detailed measurements of the visitor’s properties. “This thing is very strange,” said Meech. Originally denoted A/2017 U1 (with the A for “asteroid”), the body is now …

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Small asteroid or comet ‘visits’ from beyond the solar system

Diagram of our solar system shows the dramatic path of A/2017 U1

A small, recently discovered asteroid—or perhaps a comet—appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers. This unusual object—for now designated A/2017 U1—is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast. Astronomers …

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Documenting the last permafrost in Hawaiʻi

Mauna Kea

In the coldest climate, on the tallest summits of Hawaiʻi, temperatures fall below freezing during winter nights. In 1969 Alfred Woodcock discovered areas inside cinder cones on Maunakea that are permanently frozen. At one place the ice was about 32 feet thick and 27 yard long, buried beneath about one foot of boulders, the only permanent ice known in all of …

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UH part of astronomical discovery that changes understanding of universe

A binary neutron star merger and resulting kilonova explosion.

University of Hawaiʻi researchers played a major role in one of the most significant astronomical discoveries in decades—the first observations of a binary neutron star merger and resulting kilonova explosion. The discovery fundamentally affects our understanding of the origin of many of the elements common on Earth and in our bodies. UH astronomers, together with their international collaborators, announced the discovery in articles …

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More high school students get astronomical viewing time through Maunakea Scholars partnership

Students and mentors working at computers

The Maunakea Scholars program, designed to bring Hawaiʻi’s high school students into one of the world’s most advanced observatory communities, has dramatically expanded for the 2017–2018 school year to serve more local kids. The program announced its tremendous growth recently at the Future Focus Technology and Research Conference. “Maunakea Scholars is an unprecedented program,” said Kaʻiu Kimura, executive director of the ʻImiloaAstronomy Center. “It is a …

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Fifth UH simulated Mars mission is in the books

HI-SEAS Mission V crew

On September 17, after eight months of isolation in a geodesic dome on the slopes of Mauna Loa, six HawaiʻiSpace Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) crew members exited their habitat. They felt the sun and wind on their faces and ate fresh tropical papaya, pineapple and bananas with friends and family. It’s been a memorable experience for the Mission Vcrew for a variety …

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Mars simulation crew readying to exit Mauna Loa habitat

The eight-month mission to “Mars” for the fifth University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) crew is almost over. Anticipation is building, as the crewmembers get ready to exit their habitat on Mauna Loa on Sunday, September 17, 2017. The NASA-funded HI-SEAS project aims to help determine the individual and team requirements for long-duration space exploration missions, including travel to Mars. “Long term …

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Local students get an Akamai experience at telescopes on Hawaiʻi Island and Maui

Akamai interns around podium

Students from the University of Hawaiʻi System were among the 29 participants in the 2017 Akamai Internship Program that gives college students from Hawaiʻi an opportunity to gain a summer work experience at an observatory, company or scientific/technical facility in Hawaiʻi. The students spent the eight-week program working on research projects with mentors at a variety of STEM facilities on HawaiʻiIsland and Maui including the telescopes on Maunakea and Haleakalā. …

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