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New York National Guardsmen to Test NASA Space Capsule Recovery System in Hawaii

Forty-five members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing are heading to Hawaii, Feb. 27, to participate in a joint NASA and Defense Department mission to evaluate recovery techniques and gear that will be used to recover NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the next generation of American space vehicle.

Navy divers and other personnel in a Zodiac boat secure a harness around a test version of the Orion crew module during Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, Oct. 28, 2016. Members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing will participate in a mission in Hawaii designed to test space capsule recovery techniques and equipment, although they will not work with a capsule simulator like this one. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans. NASA photo

The team of 45 airmen is made up of pararescuemen; combat rescue officers; survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists; and other support airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing’s 103rd Rescue Squadron based here.

Pararescuemen are trained to rescue downed aviators behind enemy lines and from land and water environments. Each pararescue airman undergoes two years of training that includes extensive medical training as well as training in parachute jumping, scuba diving and survival skills.

The pararescuemen are experienced in dropping fully stocked rescue boats to recover personnel.

The New York Air National Guardsmen will work with experts from NASA, the Air Force and the Department of Defense Human Spaceflight Support Office in developing techniques for air-dropping gear needed to recover the crew from an Orion screw module and fit the floating spacecraft with special equipment.

The New York airmen will conduct airdrops and practice helping astronauts out of the spacecraft, providing medical assistance if necessary. The jumps will help NASA and the military test a number of systems and procedures for future launches.

While the 106th airmen will be testing recovery equipment, they will not be working with an actual or simulated Orion capsule.

Experienced Airmen

This is not the first time the New York Air National Guard has been involved in a spacecraft recovery mission.

The 106th Rescue Wing provided a rescue support package at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, which is located adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center, for 109 of the Space Shuttle missions. The mission of the National Guardsmen was to rescue astronauts who were forced to abandon their spacecraft during the launch sequence.

“We are pleased to be partnering once again with NASA and the Department of Defense on manned space travel. This exercise is one of many steps the 106th will take to ensure the successful recovery of our nation’s astronauts should the need arise. This will further demonstrate the versatility and tremendous capability the Airmen of the 106th possess,” said Air Force Col. Michael Bank, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing.

“The personnel of the 106th Rescue Wing are professionals who have proven themselves in both combat and here at home, “said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony German, the adjutant general of New York. “We’re pleased that they can lend their expertise as NASA plans for the continued exploration of space.”

To the Moon and Beyond

Orion is designed to take Americans back into deep space — defined as the moon and beyond.

The spacecraft resembles a larger version of the Apollo space capsule which took men to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Like the Apollo command module, the Orion spacecraft is designed to ‘splash down” in the ocean instead of landing on a runway like the Space Shuttles, which flew 135 times between 1981 and 2011.

Unlike the Apollo capsules, the Orion crew module is designed to be reusable and will house two to six astronauts instead of three.

An unmanned Orion flew in 2014. The next launch of the spacecraft is due in September 2018. That three-week long mission to the moon and beyond was originally to be unmanned by NASA has announced they are studying whether or not a crewed mission can be conducted.

The deployment of the 106th personnel is part of the Sentry Aloha series of air operations exercises hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard each year.

NASA’s objectives for the mission are to:

  • Test the best way to mark the spacecraft’s location in the water;
  • Test configurations for airdropping recovery equipment;
  • Practice the inflation of a “front porch” which would be used by astronauts exiting the spacecraft; test the stabilization collar which will be placed on the Orion capsule before recovery; and
  • Test storage capacity for equipment on land.

Local Divemaster/Photographer Member of 1st Place Team USA at World Shootout Underwater Photo Grand Prix

Kona Honu Divers divemaster and popular local photographer Jeff Milisen joins two other photographers on Team USA at the World Shootout Underwater Photo Grand Prix. Milisen, along with Renee Capozzola and Ron Watkins took home the first place prize in the National Team category, which included a trip to Papua, New Guinea.

Seahorse has an octopus on its head. Photo by Jeff Milisen

“We’re not surprised Jeff was part of a winning team, because he’s won so many other photo competitions,” said Byron Kay, owner of Kona Honu Divers where Milisen works. “He’s such a pro we asked him to once again host our 2nd Annual Kona Underwater Shootout which will be held May. Jeff’s willingness to put himself in situations that make most people squeamish allows him to capture the action up close and personal”.

Milisen specializes in “blackwater” photography of small marine creatures that rise to the surface of the ocean at night, and was the Overall Grand Prize winner in the 2015 Ocean Art photo contest.  Milisen, a biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa studying coral reefs, is also a divemaster for Kona Honu Divers and the Director of the annual Kona Underwater Shootout. Check out Milisen’s photos at http://www.iphotograph.fish.

Byron Kay owns Kona Honu Divers, a SCUBA diving, Manta Ray watching and snorkeling activity company and equipment shop.  He also owns Kona Freedivers. Kay is a certified SCUBA and Freediving Instructor who’s a valuable resource for information about Hawaii’s ocean life. He’s also a founder of the Kona Underwater Club, an organization dedicated to local research, education, and cleaning up the debris on the coastline and in the ocean.

Hawaii Residents Can Spot the Space Station AGAIN Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station AGAIN tonight (depending on clouds).

It will be visible beginning tonight, Saturday, February 18th  at 6:38 PM. It will be visible for approximately 6 minutes at a maximum height of 45 degrees. It will appear 12 degrees above the North Northwest part of the sky and disappear 10 degrees above the East Southeast part of the sky.

Hawaii Residents Can Possibly Spot the Space Station Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station tonight (depending on clouds).

It will be visible beginning tonight, Friday, February 17th at 7:30 PM. It will be visible for approximately 4 minutes at a maximum height of 69 degrees. It will appear 11 degrees above the Northwest part of the sky and disappear 32 degrees above the South Southeast part of the sky.

Hawaii Ranked 1st Nationally in School Internet Connectivity

Hawaii’s public school system is the top ranked school district in K-12 broadband connectivity according to the 2016 State of the States annual report released by EducationSuperHighway, an advocacy group dedicated to upgrading Internet infrastructure in K-12 public schools.

“In 2014 we accomplished our goal to deliver Wi-Fi to all public schools statewide, which was a huge undertaking by our Office of Information Technology Services and Office of School Facilities and Support Services,” noted Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “The work of our teams have paid off and we’re very proud to be recognized as number one in the country for our Wi-Fi connectivity.”

From 2010 to 2015, the Hawaii State Department of Education increased its broadband at schools from 0.3 gigabytes/second to 8.0 gigabytes/second.

“Having access to the Internet allows our teachers to enhance classroom lessons and gives our students vast digital learning resources that make learning an interactive, hands-on activity. Complete connectivity is a large step forward towards 21st Century Learning initiatives and preparing our students for college and careers,” added Superintendent Matayoshi.

Hawaii’s national No. 1 ranking is based on full 100 percent scores in the report’s four criteria:

  • Connectivity, reflecting the percentage of school districts meeting 100 kbps per student;
  • Fiber, reflecting the percentage of schools with fiber optic connections needed to meet bandwidth targets;
  • Wi-Fi, reflecting the percentage of school districts reporting sufficient Wi-Fi in all classrooms; and
  • Affordability, the percentage of school districts maximizing their bandwidth within set budgets.

EducationSuperHighway is a non-profit advocacy group focused on providing equal access to high-speed broadband for all K-12 public school students.

Parent Workshop – “Social Media, Media, and Sex: Opportunities, Solutions, and Challenges Facing Kids and Teens and What Parents Can Do”

Hawaii Preparatory Academy welcomes Justine Finn, director of Relation-Shift, for a free parent workshop, Social Media, Media, and Sex: Opportunities, Solutions, and Challenges Facing Kids and Teens and What Parents Can Do.

Justine Finn

The interactive workshop, which runs about 90 minutes, begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8, at the schoolʻs Gates Performing Arts Center (Upper Campus). All community members are invited to attend.

“Teens in the United States spend an average of nine hours a day on a screen, not including for school or homework,” says Finn. “Socializing, exploring identity, and dating often occur between texts and social media, raising new challenges and positive opportunities.”

As young people begin engaging in romantic and intimate relationships, many experience violence, abuse, and harassment. How can parents guide, empower and mentor their children to engage in healthy media and relationship behaviors? Finnʻs workshop will reveal what children are learning about sex, gender, and relationships from social and traditional media, and will provide parents with strategies to address common problems (and opportunities) facing their children and communities.

Finn founded Relation-Shift at the Harvard Innovation Lab after receiving the 2016 Harvard Graduate School of Education Entrepreneurship in Education Award. Relation-Shift works with middle and high schools to address relationship and sexual violence amongst middle and high-school aged youth. For the past 10 years, Finn has worked to advance the equality of women and men, focusing on creating inclusive workplaces and school cultures and developing the capacity of young people to engage in healthy relationships. Finn facilitates classes, workshops, and seminars across the country on gender, media representation, and the prevention of sexual and relationship violence and bullying.

For more information, visit www.relationshiftproject.com, or call 808-881-4002.

Court Dismisses Sandwich Isles Communications Lawsuit Against the Public Utilities Commission

Attorney General Doug Chin announced that state circuit judge Rhonda A. Nishimura today dismissed a lawsuit filed by Sandwich Isles Communications against the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Sandwich Isles, which provides phone and internet services to residents of Hawaiian home lands, sued the PUC to restore millions of dollars in federal subsidies that were suspended in 2015 by federal regulators. Judge Nishimura ruled from the bench, granting the PUC’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

After federal regulators suspended subsidies to Sandwich Isles in 2015 and 2016, the PUC issued decisions declining to certify it as an eligible telecommunications carrier. Sandwich Isles must be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier to receive a type of federal subsidy granted to communications companies to provide services to certain rural or other hard-to-reach geographic areas. After the PUC issued its decision, Sandwich Isles appealed to the circuit court.

The PUC declined to issue the certification in September 2016 because it was waiting for the results of a federal audit of the participation by Sandwich Isles in the federal subsidies program. The subsidy payments to Sandwich Isles were suspended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 because of the audit and those subsidies are still suspended. In December 2016, as a result of the audit, the FCC ordered that Sandwich Isles pay substantial fines and repay the federal government more than $27 million in overpayments.

Attorney General Doug Chin stated, “Given the federal audit and its findings, the Public Utilities Commission was right to act with caution in this situation.”

The FCC’s orders are in the process of being implemented. Today’s ruling does not impact those proceedings. A written order from Judge Nishimura is forthcoming.

Hawaii Residents Can Spot the Space Station Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station tonight (depending on clouds).

It will be visible beginning tonight, Tuesday, January 24 at 7:25 PM. It will be visible for approximately 2 minutes at a maximum height of 51 degrees. It will appear 28 degrees above the West Southwest part of the sky and disappear 36 degrees above the North part of the sky.

Hawaii Circuit Court Criminal and Family Court Criminal Cases Now Available Online

The Hawaii State Judiciary now has more court documents available for online viewing.  Circuit and family court criminal case documents filed January 23, 2017 and thereafter will be available for download and purchase online through eCourt Kokua.  This will supplement the current traffic, district court criminal, and appellate cases presently available on eCourt Kokua.  Civil case information will continue to be available through Ho’ohiki.

Because of this successful transition, improved services will be available internally as well as to the public: documents can be shared electronically and instantaneously between court locations; more court records will be accessible to the public for online viewing and purchase;  attorneys will be able to take advantage of e-filing these case types anytime of the day; and law enforcement will be able to get felony bench warrants electronically, eliminating data entry and filing of hard copies with new electronic warrants.

There is a transition team standing by to answer any questions about e-filing or any other technical questions.  Please call (808) 534-6644.  For all other public inquiries, please call the Communications & Community Relations Office at (808) 539-4909.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Work to Restore Power – Lanai Still Without

In the aftermath of powerful windstorms that swept through the state on Saturday, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light crews continue their work today to restore service to thousands of customers who remain without power.

Photos via Francine Grace

Winds remain gusty across the islands today and more outages are likely.

According to preliminary assessments, damage to electrical equipment from the windstorms was some of the most widespread in years, affecting customers on each of the five islands served by Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light.

Presently, all 1,700 customers on Lanai are without power and are being asked to plan for an extended outage as crews work to safely restore power.

On Oahu, there were more than 100 separate outages in the past 24 hours, affecting about 100,000 customers. All but about 1,900 in Palolo had been restored by this morning and there are still dozens of localized outages across the island, including in Makaha, Waianae, Wahiawa, Manoa and Kalihi.

After high winds snapped or damaged 19 utility poles on Lanai yesterday, Maui Electric crews are continuing restoration efforts today. The estimated time of restoration for Lanai City is by 11 p.m. tonight, with the Manele area to follow by Monday evening.

On Maui, crews are working to restore about 560 customers in pockets of Upcountry Maui and Paia.

On Molokai, Hawaii Electric Light crews will arrive later today to assist Maui Electric with the restoration of power to a radio tower. Currently no other customers are out.

Hawaii island experienced scattered outages caused by branches in lines, affecting about 7,500 customers over the past 24 hours. The largest outage was in the Waimea-Kawaihae area affecting about 2,700 customers Saturday night. All customers on the island have been restored.

Customers are reminded to stay away from downed power lines since they could be energized and are extremely dangerous.

When lines from a utility pole fall to the ground, touch a guardrail or land on a car, please remember:

  • Do not touch these lines. Stay away from downed power lines – at least 30 feet or more.
  • Report downed lines immediately by calling Hawaiian Electric’s Trouble Line; the number is 1-855-304-1212, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • If you see someone injured after touching a downed power line, call 9-1-1 for help.
    • Don’t try to rescue the individual because electrical current can travel through them to you and you risk becoming a victim yourself.
    • Warn others to stay away.
  • Always assume downed power lines are energized and dangerous.
  • A downed line touching a fence or guard rail can energize it for several thousand yards and pose a hazard to anyone coming into contact with these structures. Don’t run away; instead, keep your legs together and shuffle away with both feet on the ground to a safe distance (30 feet or more).
  • If a power line falls on your car while you are inside, follow these instructions:
    • Remain where you are, if possible, and call and wait for help.
    • If you must get out of the car because of a fire or other hazard, jump free of the car, hopping with both feet together so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground.
    • Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 30 feet away, with both feet on the ground.
  • Never step down or simultaneously touch the ground and equipment that is in contact with the power line, as this will increase the risk of electrical shock.

Hawaiian Electric Companies to Offer Discounted Medical Needs Rate

The Hawaiian Electric Companies will offer a special medical needs discount rate for customers of all three companies. This pilot is subject to Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approval to go into effect on April 1, 2017 for two years.

Up to 2,000 customers dependent on life support equipment or increased heating and cooling needs due to a medical condition verified by a physician may save up to $20 a month on the first 500 kWh of energy use. Use above 500 kWh will be charged at regular residential rates.

“Everyone depends on electricity, but for some with special medical needs it can be a life or death matter,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service. “We believe most people will agree that providing a little financial relief for some of our neighbors is the right thing to do.”

Applications will be made available online, subject to commission approval, and will require a licensed physician’s signature. To qualify, a customer or a full-time resident in the customer’s home must be:

  • Dependent on life-support devices used in the home to sustain life or relied upon for mobility as determined by a licensed physician, including but not limited to: aerosol tents; apnea monitors; hemodialysis machines; compressors; electric nerve stimulators; pressure pumps; electrostatic nebulizers; and intermittent positive pressure breathing machines.
  • A paraplegic, hemiplegic, quadriplegic, multiple sclerosis or scleroderma patient with special heating and/or cooling needs.

Based on the number of applicants, the Hawaiian Electric Companies will determine whether to continue the rate after two years.

Residential customers with anyone in the home dependent on life support or emergency equipment are encouraged to inform their island utility of that fact by calling customer service today so they can be notified about future planned maintenance outages. However, because unplanned outages can occur, it is essential that customers with life support or emergency equipment needs make alternate plans should the power go out.

Apple Mapping Car Being Spotted Around the Big Island

This afternoon as I was driving in Hilo, I noticed a weird car drive by me with all these cameras on top of it.  At first I thought it was the Google Car that I had seen a few years ago on Bayfront but learned it wasn’t.
I was driving down the Mohouli extension road and the car turned on to Loko Place.  Knowing that Loko Place was a dead end street that was just recently built… I flipped a U-Turn and pulled over on the side of Loko Place and positioned myself to take a picture of the car.
It turned out it was an “Apple” car that was doing mapping for it’s “Maps” application http://maps.apple.com.

Apple Maps states:

Offering an all-new design and a host of innovative features, Maps makes finding and getting to your destination faster and easier than ever. With turn-by-turn spoken directions, interactive 3D views, proactive suggestions, and the ability to use third-party apps right inside Maps, there’s so much to explore.

Maps now predicts the places you’re most likely to go and suggests the fastest way to get there based on traffic, your current location, the time of day, and events on your schedule. So in the morning, Maps can provide a proactive suggestion for the best route to work that avoids traffic. And any upcoming meetings on your calendar are presented with suggested routes. Simply tap the suggestion to display the directions and start navigation.

It looks as though they are trying to compete with Google for customers.  The last time that I can recall the Google car being on the Island was in 2011 but I could be wrong.

The Google car in Wailoa Park

The Google Car works in connection with the Google Bike as the bike can take folks on even narrower roads and trails where the car can’t go.

5,000th Electric Vehicle Registered in Hawaii, Drive Electric Hawaii Formed to Promote Electric Transportation

Eight key organizations have agreed to collaborate on electrification of ground transportation in Hawaii as an essential part of achieving the state’s clean energy goals.

Drive Electric Hawaii seeks to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles through coordinated collaboration, and to make it easier to expand vehicle-charging infrastructure in a way that brings more renewable energy onto the electric grid.

The new organization’s launch coincides with registration of the 5,000th electric vehicle in Hawaii.

Click to read memorandum

Founding participants who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding are: Blue Planet Foundation; Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation (HDOT); Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT); Hawaii State Division of Consumer Advocacy; the Hawaiian Electric Companies (including Maui Electric and Hawai‘i Electric Light); Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Rocky Mountain Institute; and Ulupono Initiative. Other agencies and organizations are expected to join as the initiative moves forward.

“The primary focus of the Drive Electric Hawaii Initiative is to accelerate the cost-effective electrification of transportation in all passenger vehicles, public transit vehicles, and fleet vehicles…,” the memorandum states. “This effort will play a meaningful part toward the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative objective of increasing energy security and self-sufficiency by eliminating Hawaii’s dependence on imported fuels for both electricity and ground transportation.”

Hawaii is second in the nation (after California) in per capita electric vehicle registrations and a leader in charging facilities. Despite low gasoline prices, plug-in passenger vehicles registered in the state increased 26 percent last year. At the same time, gasoline and diesel vehicle registrations fell by 4 percent and 3 percent respectively.

“We are in the midst of a massive transformation,” said Richard Wallsgrove of Blue Planet Foundation. “Electric vehicles can use renewable energy, enabling us to drastically reduce our state’s carbon pollution. At the same time, electric vehicles can help to lower the cost of energy for everyone. This can be a true win-win.”

With over one million vehicles registered in the state, Wallsgrove said, “Reaching 5,000 electric vehicles is an early milestone. But every great journey starts with one step. The goal of Drive Electric Hawaii is to accelerate this progress, reaching our clean energy goals faster, together.”

“Being able to offer EV users power that is generated from renewable sources is a high priority for us at Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. At 36 percent, we are well on our way to reaching – and exceeding – our goal of 50 percent renewables by 2023,” said David Bissell, KIUC president and CEO.

The initiative grew out of Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator initiative – “a boot camp for electricity innovation”– where earlier this year Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaiian Electric, Ulupono Initiative, and other Hawaii representatives brainstormed ways get more electric vehicles deployed and successfully integrated into the grid. Colorado-based RMI is an independent, global non-profit organization dedicated to sustainability, with a focus on market-based innovations for energy and resource efficiency.

“We think smartly integrated electric vehicles could be a boon — not a burden — for a Hawaii grid that is increasingly renewable, and Drive Electric Hawaii will help all stakeholders consider how to approach EV integration holistically,” said Jesse Morris, a principal at Rocky Mountain Institute focused on enabling the integration of distributed energy resources like EVs.

The Drive Electric Hawaii shared vision includes:

  • Building a broad coalition in support of renewable transportation
  • Encouraging use of electric vehicles
  • Increasing electric vehicle charging opportunities that support 100 percent renewable energy
  • Developing policies, regulations and laws to unlock the full value of electrified transportation

“The memorandum reinforces much of the ongoing work being done at DBEDT and elsewhere to improve the synergies between the electricity and transportation sector,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “We are grateful for the leadership taken by energy and transportation stakeholders in advancing this very important piece of our clean energy transformation.”

“Drive Electric Hawaii is a great opportunity for the public, private and nonprofit sectors to collaborate on accelerating Hawaii’s bold energy and transportation goals,” said Greg Gaug, vice president of investments for the local impact investment firm Ulupono Initiative. “As part of our energy system strategy, we look forward to working with the state, utilities, and transportation and energy stakeholders to get more EVs on our roads.”

“Many individuals, organizations and agencies must work together to achieve a clean transportation energy future. No one can do it alone,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate planning and business development. “We believe that, along with renewable generation of electricity, transportation electrification can help us achieve stable, reliable and lower-cost service for all our customers,”

With signing of the memorandum, participants will begin to establish a work plan and initiatives to move forward.

Drones are Prohibited on USAG-Hawaii Installations

Unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs or drones), once relegated to intelligence gathering and military activities, are now widely available to hobbyists and commercial enterprises.
Nearly half a million people nationwide have registered drones with the Federal Aviation Administration since December 2015.

In Hawaii, more than 3,000 drones have been registered as of May, according to FAA statistics.

Kualoa Ranch even hosted the World Drone Racing Championship in October, which brought operators from as far away as Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates to the islands.

But as the holidays near and more of the remote-controlled aircraft land under Christmas trees, officials are reminding the public to operate them safely and responsibly — off post!

Reason is, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii prohibits the unauthorized operation of drones over its properties. Violation of this policy on remotely controlled aircraft could result in disciplinary action.

“There is a security concern associated with it, with having drones potentially flying over and filming a military installation,” said James C. Knight, chief of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security’s Aviation Division. “And then there’s the potential of drones posing a hazard to some of (the Army’s) low-flying helicopters.”

He noted that there have been no indications of drones being used for spying over USAG-HI property, but added that some families living on base may be operating their drones for recreation without realizing they are in violation of Army policy.

Hawaii Residents Can Spot the Space Station Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station tonight (depending on clouds).

It will be visible beginning tonight, Tuesday, December 20 at 6:48 PM. It will be visible for approximately 6 minutes at a maximum height of 74 degrees. It will appear 11 degrees above the Northwest part of the sky and disappear 10 degrees above the Southeast part of the sky.

Pan-STARRS Releases Largest Digital Sky Survey to the World

The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) project at the University of Hawai‘i Institute for Astronomy is publicly releasing the world’s largest digital sky survey today, via the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Pan-STARRS1 Observatory on Haleakala

“The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies,” said Ken Chambers, director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories. “Pan-STARRS has made discoveries from Near Earth Objects and Kuiper Belt Objects in the Solar System to lonely planets between the stars; it has mapped the dust in three dimensions in our galaxy and found new streams of stars; and it has found new kinds of exploding stars and distant quasars in the early universe.”

“With this release we anticipate that scientists — as well as students and even casual users — around the world will make many new discoveries about the universe from the wealth of data collected by Pan-STARRS,” Chambers added.

The four years of data comprise 3 billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies and various other objects. The immense collection contains 2 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to one billion selfies or one hundred times the total content of Wikipedia.

The first Pan-STARRS observatory is a 1.8-meter telescope at the summit of Haleakalā on Maui. In May 2010, it embarked on a digital sky survey of the sky in visible and near infrared light. This was the first survey to observe the entire sky visible from Hawai‘i multiple times in many colors of light, with the goal of finding moving, transient and variable objects, including asteroids that could potentially threaten the Earth. The survey took approximately four years to complete, and scanned the sky 12 times in each of five filters.

“Achieving the high quality of the Pan-STARRS1 measurements and maintaining it over such an enormous quantity of data was a unique computational challenge, and the results are a tribute to the dedicated efforts of our small team of scientists at the UH IfA and our collaborators who worked to process and calibrate the extraordinary volume of raw image data,” said Eugene Magnier, lead of the Pan-STARRS Image Processing team.

This research program was undertaken by the PS1 Science Consortium — a collaboration among 10 research institutions in four countries with support from NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Consortium observations for the sky survey, mapping everything visible from Hawai‘i, were completed in April 2014. This data is now being released publicly.

“It’s great to see the Pan-STARRS1 data release supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) now made available to the general astronomical community,” said Nigel Sharp, program director in NSF’s astronomical sciences division. “I am impressed by the work the team invested to make the best-calibrated and best-characterized data set they could. I eagerly anticipate the science from mining these data.”

The roll-out is being done in two stages. Today’s release is the “Static Sky,” which is the average of each of those individual epochs. For every object, there’s an average value for its position, brightness and colors. In 2017, the second set of data will be released, providing a catalog that gives the information and images for each individual epoch.

The Space Telescope Science Institute provides the storage hardware, the computers that handle the database queries, and the user-friendly interfaces to access the data.

“The cooperation between STScI and the Pan-STARRS team at the University of Hawai‘i has been essential to ensuring that this initial data release is successful,” explained Marc Postman, head of the community missions office at STScI, and liaison between STScI and the PS1 Consortium. “STScI was a natural partner to host the Pan-STARRS public archive given its extensive experience serving astronomy data to the international community. In advance of the release of the Pan-STARRS data, STScI staff helped perform checks of data quality, helped write archive user documentation, tested and installed the local data storage and database query system, and designed, built and deployed the web-based user interfaces to the archive system.”

The survey data resides in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which serves as NASA’s repository for all of its optical and ultraviolet-light observations, some of which date to the early 1970s. It includes all of the observational data from such space astrophysics missions as Hubble, Kepler, GALEX, and a wide variety of other telescopes, as well as several all-sky surveys. Pan-STARRS marks the nineteenth mission to be archived in MAST.

The data can be accessed at http://panstarrs.stsci.edu.

The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys have been made possible through contributions by the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawai‘i, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max-Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, The Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, the Queen’s University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National Central University of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Grant No. NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the National Science Foundation Grant No. AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakalā and Maunakea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Gathering Information on Land Available for Renewable Energy Development

To help accelerate and inform efforts to achieve 100 percent renewable energy, the Hawaiian Electric Companies today launched an effort to gather information about land that may be made available for future renewable energy projects that will benefit all electric customers.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and the Hawaii Electric Light Company are issuing a Request for Information (RFI) which asks interested landowners to provide information about properties on Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai available for utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind farms, or for growing biofuel feedstock.

“Land is one of the most important resources to consider in the development of renewable energy projects. By proactively identifying potential sites, we are hoping to make the process of developing renewable energy projects faster and more efficient for both land owners and prospective developers,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of strategic planning and business development.

To reach 100 percent renewable energy, Hawaii will need a broad mix of renewable energy resources. Continued growth of private rooftop solar energy systems and energy storage will offer customers more options. These resources will be complemented by additional large-scale projects, which will help ensure all customers receive the benefits renewable energy.

Interested parties should submit responses to the RFI by Jan. 27, 2017. For more information, go to www.hawaiianelectric.com/landRFI or email landrfi@hawaiianelectric.com.

EPA Awards Funding to Replace Buses on Big Island

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a total of $6,329,500 in Diesel Emission Reduction Act funds to public and private partners in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and American Samoa. EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator, Alexis Strauss made the announcement today at a meeting of the international Commission for Environmental Cooperation in Long Beach, California. The funds will be used to retrofit and replace old, polluting diesel vehicles and equipment, including school buses, trucks, agriculture and port equipment, and generators.

The Diesel Emission Reduction Act program is administered by the EPA’s West Coast Collaborative, a clean air partnership comprised of EPA’s Pacific Southwest and Pacific Northwest Regions, which leverages public and private funds to reduce emissions from the most polluting diesel sources in impacted communities.

“By promoting clean diesel technologies, we can improve air quality and human health while supporting green jobs in disadvantaged communities,” said Ms. Strauss. “Public-private partnerships like the West Coast Collaborative are leading the way on reducing harmful diesel emissions and advancing domestic economic development.”

The 2016 grants will fund the following projects:

California Air Resources Board (CARB): CARB was awarded a $539,412 grant to be combined with $371,168 in state funding to retrofit 41 heavy-duty diesel school buses operating throughout California.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD): BAAQMD was awarded a $1,420,263 grant to be combined with a BAAQMD contribution of $4,278,662 to replace one older locomotive and two Tier 0 switcher locomotives with cleaner Tier 4 locomotives operating in the San Francisco Bay Area.

San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District (SJVUAPCD): SJVUAPCD was awarded a $900,000 grant to be combined with $4,789,626 in local funding to replace 41 model year 1994-2006 Class 5 through 8 heavy-duty diesel delivery trucks operating in the San Joaquin Valley with ones powered by 2015 or newer model year engines.

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD): SCAQMD was awarded a $523,809 grant to be combined with $2,229,000 in local funding to replace one pre-model year 1973 diesel switch locomotive with a new cleaner Tier 4 diesel locomotive that will be operating at the Port of Long Beach.

Port of Long Beach: The City of Long Beach Harbor Department was awarded a $1,469,818 grant to be combined with $1,957,164 in funds from the Long Beach Container Terminal, Inc. to replace five existing diesel powered yard tractors with electric automated guided vehicles used for handling cargo at the Port of Long Beach.

Port of Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles Harbor Department was awarded a $800,000 grant to be combined with $2,214,000 in funds from APM Terminals and TraPac, LLC. to replace 16 yard tractors with cleaner Tier 4 models and repower two heavy lifts with Tier 4 engines used for handling cargo at the Port of Los Angeles.

Arizona’s Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD): MCAQD was awarded a $217,069 grant to install Diesel Oxidation Catalyst retrofits on 37 heavy-duty public works vehicles operating in Arizona. The project will be implemented through a partnership the Maricopa County Equipment Services Department and other participating fleets.

Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP): NDEP was awarded a $193,627 grant to be combined with $580,881 in local funding to replace four Class 5 legacy diesel vehicles with new vehicles powered by model year 2013 or newer engines. The project will also retrofit 15 Class 5 vehicles with diesel oxidation catalysts and switch them from ultra-low sulfur diesel to renewable diesel fuel.

Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH): HDOH was awarded a $194,787 grant to be combined with $584,361 in local funding to replace two Class 5 legacy diesel transit buses operating on the Island of Hawaii.

American Samoa: The American Samoa Power Authority was awarded a $70,715 grant to repower an existing diesel-powered stationary generator with a clean, 1.4 megawatt photovoltaic solar system and a Tier 3 275 kilowatt backup diesel-powered generator on the Island of Ta’u. The system will also include 6 megawatt hours of batteries, allowing island residents to continually utilize the renewable energy on days when the sun is not shining.

The projects selected today will result in cleaner diesel or electric engines that operate in economically disadvantaged communities whose residents suffer from higher-than-average instances of asthma, heart, and lung disease. These actions are estimated to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen by 1,315 tons, fine particulate matter by 167 tons, hydrocarbons by 71 tons, carbon monoxide by 541 tons, and carbon dioxide by 32,830 tons over the lifetime of the affected engines.

This funding is part of U.S. EPA’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act fiscal year 2016 allocation that includes engine replacements, idle reduction and retrofit technologies to clean up a variety of older diesel engines. Since 2008, the program has awarded more than 700 grants across the country in 600 communities. These projects have reduced emissions from more than 60,000 engines. Reducing particulate matter emissions has important public health and air quality benefits, including the reduction of soot and black carbon.

To learn more about all of this year’s West Coast Collaborative DERA projects, including those awarded in the Pacific Southwest, please visit: http://www.westcoastcollaborative.org.

For more information about EPA’s National Clean Diesel campaign and the awarded DERA projects nationally, visit www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.

Senate Sends Thune-Schatz Legislation Protecting Consumer Reviews to President

Bipartisan Proposal Put Forward by Thune, Schatz, and Moran Outlaws Abusive “Gag Clauses”

yelp-advisorThe U.S. Senate today, by unanimous consent, sent bicameral legislation to the White House for the President’s signature that will outlaw the use of “gag clauses” in non-negotiable form contracts. Some businesses have attracted national scrutiny for using gag clauses to punish or silence honest criticism of products and services. The sponsors of the Senate version released the following statements:

“Reviews on where to shop, eat, or stay on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor help consumers make informed choices about where to spend their money. Every consumer has the right to share their honest experiences and opinions of any business without the fear of legal retaliation, and the passage of our bill brings us one step closer to protecting that right,” said Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i).

“By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online. I appreciate the bipartisan efforts of my Senate and House colleagues to get this legislation over the finish line,” said Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.).

“Just as word of mouth is used by family and friends to share experiences with particular brands or businesses, online reviews have significant benefits to consumers in their purchasing decisions. I’m pleased this legislation will now be sent to the president’s desk. It will help make certain consumers in Kansas and across the country are able to make their voices heard without fear of lawsuits or financial repercussions for honest feedback,” said Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on gag clauses on November 4, 2015, featuring testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit.

Thune, Schatz, and Moran introduced S. 2044, the Consumer Review Freedom Act, in September 2015, and the Senate passed the measure unanimously last year. The Senate today approved the companion House version, H.R. 5111, introduced by Rep. Lance Leonard (R-N.J.) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) earlier this year. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) also sponsored an earlier House companion version of the legislation, H.R. 2110, to outlaw gag clauses.

Hawaii Residents Can Spot the International Space Station Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station tonight (depending on clouds).

international-space-stationIt will be visible beginning tonight, Saturday, November 26 at 6:30 PM. It will be visible for approximately 5 minutes at a maximum height of 69 degrees. It will appear 11 degrees above the South Southwest part of the sky and disappear 26 degrees above the Northeast part of the sky.