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Astronomy & Space

Undergraduate investigates how to grow plants in space

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Aleca Borsuk, a senior Mechanical Engineering student in the College of Engineering, worked with mentor, Kent Kobayashi, associate horticulturist in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences at the College of Tropcial Agriculture and Human Resources, on a project which used artificial lighting to simulate amaranth grown in space. She presented this work at the Spring 2016 Hawai’i Space Grant Consortium Fellowship & Traineeship …

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Are black holes the dark matter?

Left: This image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows an infrared view of a sky area in the constellation Ursa Major. Right: After masking out all known stars, galaxies and artifacts and enhancing what’s left, an irregular background glow appears. This is the cosmic infrared background (CIB); lighter colors indicate brighter areas. The CIB glow is more irregular than can be explained by distant unresolved galaxies, and this excess structure is thought to be light emitted when the universe was less than a billion years old. Scientists say it likely originated from the first luminous objects to form in the universe, which includes both the first stars and black holes. Photo Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/A. Kashlinsky (Goddard)

A few months ago the news about the discovery of gravitational waves from two merging black holes with about 30 solar masses each rippled through the scientific community and caused a lot of excitement even among non-scientists. Almost exactly 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted them, gravitational waves were finally observed, and also gave proof that black holes exist — …

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UH reports progress on governor’s 10 point plan for Maunakea

Maunakea observatories

On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced a 10 point action plan for the stewardship of Maunakea. Here is an update, as of May 2016, on the steps the University of Hawaiʻi has taken to meet its obligations set by the governor’s plan. UH Action Status 1. Accept its responsibility to do a better job in the future COMPLETED— …

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Back from the deep freeze: A piece of the early Solar System returns

Artist’s impression of the unique rocky comet C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS). (image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Astronomers have found a unique object that appears to be made of inner Solar System material from the time of Earth’s formation, which has been preserved in the Oort Cloud for billions of years. Originally identified by the University of Hawaiʻi’s  Pan-STARRS1 telescope, C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS)  is a weakly active comet a little over twice as far from the Sun …

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Record number of women doctoral candidates awarded prestigious dissertation fellowships

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Six University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa doctoral candidates, in programs ranging from astronomy to social welfare have been selected to receive the esteemed Founder Region of Soroptimist International Dissertation Fellowship for the 2016–2017 academic year. This is the largest number University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa applicants that were awarded fellowships, beating out the University of California, Berkeley and other California …

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Assistant professor wins CAREER award for research on cosmic rays


Philip von Doetinchem, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa physics assistant professor, has won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award for his project, “Dark Matter Identification with Cosmic-Ray Antideuterons,” which is expected to total $708,390 for five years. Doetinchem’s research program is focused on the study of cosmic rays, charged particles originating from violent events deep in outer space. …

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UH astronomers help local high school students compete for telescope time

Evan Sinukoff with Nevyn Tyau, Ashley Cobbs and Caitlyn Reid at Kapolei High School. Photo: Naidah Gamurot

Astronomers from the University of Hawaiʻi’s Institute for Astronomy are playing a key role in the first program in the world of its kind to provide observing time on a world-class telescope for Hawaiʻi’s aspiring young astronomers. Institute for Astronomy graduate students Kelly Blumenthal and Evan Sinukoff have been working with Kapolei High School and Waiākea High School students as …

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Mystery of disappearing asteroids solved

Artist’s impression. An asteroid’s orbit is altered as it passes close to Jupiter, Earth or Venus, such that its new orbit takes it near the Sun. The intense heat from the Sun causes the asteroid’s surface to expand and fracture, and some of the material breaks off. As the surface material disintegrates, it creates dust and pebbles that spread out along the asteroid’s orbit with time. If the orbit of the dust and pebbles ever intersects Earth, it can create a meteor shower. Art by Karen Teramura.

Ever since it was realized that asteroid and comet impacts are a real and present danger to the survival of life on Earth, it was thought that most of those objects end their existence in a dramatic final plunge into the Sun. A new study published on Thursday in the journal Nature finds instead that most of those objects are destroyed in a …

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Pan-STARRS chases source of LIGO gravity wave event

Pan-STARRS 1 Telescope

The email came in the evening of September 15. A potentially significant event had happened at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, during their engineering run. A ripple in spacetime had occurred somewhere in the universe. But where? LIGO had not yet started their formal observing run, and with only two Gravity Wave detectors, one in Hanford, WA, and …

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