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May 10 16

NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces Largest Collection of Planets Ever Discovered

by Brea Aamoth

Press Release by NASA

NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

“This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”

Analysis was performed on the Kepler space telescope’s July 2015 planet candidate catalog, which identified 4,302 potential planets. For 1,284 of the candidates, the probability of being a planet is greater than 99 percent – the minimum required to earn the status of “planet.” An additional 1,327 candidates are more likely than not to be actual planets, but they do not meet the 99 percent threshold and will require additional study. The remaining 707 are more likely to be some other astrophysical phenomena. This analysis also validated 984 candidates previously verified by other techniques.

“Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy. Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters. “This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.”

Kepler captures the discrete signals of distant planets – decreases in brightness that occur when planets pass in front of, or transit, their stars – much like the May 9 Mercury transit of our sun. Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system more than two decades ago, researchers have resorted to a laborious, one-by-one process of verifying suspected planets.

This latest announcement, however, is based on a statistical analysis method that can be applied to many planet candidates simultaneously. Timothy Morton, associate research scholar at Princeton University in New Jersey and lead author of the scientific paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, employed a technique to assign each Kepler candidate a planet-hood probability percentage – the first such automated computation on this scale, as previous statistical techniques focused only on sub-groups within the greater list of planet candidates identified by Kepler.

“Planet candidates can be thought of like bread crumbs,” said Morton. “If you drop a few large crumbs on the floor, you can pick them up one by one. But, if you spill a whole bag of tiny crumbs, you’re going to need a broom. This statistical analysis is our broom.”

In the newly-validated batch of planets, nearly 550 could be rocky planets like Earth, based on their size. Nine of these orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, which is the distance from a star where orbiting planets can have surface temperatures that allow liquid water to pool. With the addition of these nine, 21 exoplanets now are known to be members of this exclusive group.

“They say not to count our chickens before they’re hatched, but that’s exactly what these results allow us to do based on probabilities that each egg (candidate) will hatch into a chick (bona fide planet),” said Natalie Batalha, co-author of the paper and the Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “This work will help Kepler reach its full potential by yielding a deeper understanding of the number of stars that harbor potentially habitable, Earth-size planets — a number that’s needed to design future missions to search for habitable environments and living worlds.”

Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified, and 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler. Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets. For four years, Kepler monitored 150,000 stars in a single patch of sky, measuring the tiny, telltale dip in the brightness of a star that can be produced by a transiting planet. In 2018, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will use the same method to monitor 200,000 bright nearby stars and search for planets, focusing on Earth and Super-Earth-sized.

Ames manages the Kepler missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system, with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

For briefing materials from Tuesday’s media teleconference where the new group of planets was announced, visit:

May 6 16

Rare Event: Mercury will Transit the Sun on Monday May 9

by Brea Aamoth

Photo by NASA

During the early morning of May 9th, Mercury will transit the sun. This happens about 13 times each century and the next one won’t be until 2019. Transit events are when one of the interior planets (Mercury or Venus) passes in front of the Sun from our perspective on the planet Earth. These events tend to be incredibly rare; Venus will transit twice every 243 years, while Mercury will transit about 13 times each century. Mercury will reach maximum transit just about an hour before the Sun rises here in Hilo. However, if one wakes up early and uses a solar telescope, they would be able to view the last portion of the transit. Please be advised: Only observe this event through a proper solar telescope or by using a pinhole projector.

Below are some helpful links to help you view this rare occasion!

NASA Coverage:

Time info for seeing the transit in Hilo:

How to build a pinhole projector:


May 6 16

UH Students Surf the Waves of Technology Using CyberCANOE at ‘Imiloa

by Brea Aamoth


‘Imiloa’s CyberCANOE is a virtual reality environment emanating from banks of LCD screens, ambisonic speakers and high speed computers connecting University of Hawai’i classrooms that are oceans apart. The acronym CANOE stands for Collaboration Analysis Navigation & Observation Environment.


The UH Scientific Visualization Class of Spring 2016 wrapped up their semester by inviting the community on May 5, 2016, to engage and interact with their data visualization projects using the CyberCANOE.

These interactive projects ranged from navigating a canoe through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where users could view the coral reef and sea life that surrounds those areas, to virtually swimming through Hawai’i waters to view both native and invasive fish. For each project, the user utilized remote controllers to navigate through the ocean, around coral reefs and beyond.

Each group consisted of Marine Science, Computer Science and Art Department students, all working collaboratively to create these interactive visualization projects.

The CyberCANOE is funded by the Art and Academy for Creative Media (ACM).

Apr 29 16

May Maunakea Skies: 3D Printing and the UH 2.2m Telescope

by Brea Aamoth

Maunakea Skies
Presented by: 
Luke McKay from the Institute for Astronomy (IfA)
Fri. May 20, 2016
Time: 7:00pm
$10, $8 members (member level discounts apply)



3D printing is one of the new technologies making life easier for designers and engineers, and more fun for hobbyists. To learn more about this technological advancement, join us at Imiloa’s May Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, May 20 at 7:00p.m. with Luke McKay from the Institute for Astronomy (IfA).


In a fun introduction to technology, McKay will include time-lapse videos, a live demonstration of 3D printing and a hands-on comparison of items printed in plastic versus those printed with other computer-aided machining (CAM).


McKay will discuss how the UH 2.2m (“88 inch”) telescope and the UH Institute for Astronomy are beginning to implement the use of 3D printing. He will also demonstrate the ongoing efforts to upgrade the 2.2m telescope on Maunakea, along with some science results the telescope has helped to produce.


‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy. Audiences will view prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year. Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Member Level Discounts: $8 for Kupuna, Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.



Apr 27 16

Nano Exhibit Coming Soon to ‘Imiloa! Imagine and Discover a World You Can’t See!

by Brea Aamoth

The Nano Exhibit is now Open! 

‘Imiloa’s newest exhibit, Nano, is an interactive tool that engages family audiences in nanoscale science, engineering and technology. This hands-on exhibit presents the basics of nanoscience and introduces some real world applications.

So what is nano-science? It refers to the understanding and controlled manipulation of very tiny structures on the ‘nanoscale’, that’s a billionth of a meter wide!

For example, the iridescent color of a butterfly’s wings, the ‘sticky’ feet of geckos and the self-cleaning property of kalo leaves are all examples of nanoscience that motivates new technologies like stain-resistant fabrics and self-cleaning windows.

How small is a nano?

A freckle is about 1 millimeter wide
1 millimeter = 1,000,000 nanometers


Strand of Hair
A hair is about 0.1 (one tenth) of a millimeter wide
0.1 millimeter = 100,000 nanometers


Red Blood Cell
A red blood cell is about 10 micrometers wide
10 micrometers – 10,000 nanometers



A bacteria cell is about 1 micrometer wide
1 micrometer = 1,000 nanometers

A virus is about 0.1 (one tenth) of a micrometer wide
0.1 micrometer = 100 nanometers


Cell Membrane
A cell membrane is about 10 nanometers wide



Sugar Molecule
A sugar molecule is about 1 nanometer wide




An atom is about 0.1 (one tenth) of a nanometer wide


Some experts think that nano technologies may transform our lives – similar to the way that the automobile and personal computer have changed how we live and work.


Apr 6 16

‘Imiakea Series: Millennials Who Mālama

by Brea Aamoth

Date: Thurs., April 28
5:30pm – 7:30pm
Location: UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language: Haleʻōlelo building in the Lumi Pāhiahia
Cost: Free


Hawaiian Language Immersion Graduates Talk about Balancing Tradition and Technology in April’s ʻImiākea Series

The core of ʻImiloa’s mission is inspiring future generations to continue a Hawaiian tradition of exploration and discovery through modern science and technology. To further this tradition, the community is invited to join ‘Imiloa’s ʻImiākea series, aimed at expanding our understanding of all that Maunakea represents. In this month’s ʻImiākea event, held on Thursday, April 28 from 5:30p.m. to 7:30p.m., we look into Hawaiʻi’s future through the eyes of the millennial generation that has the kuleana to mālama our Hawaiʻi.

Hawaiian Immersion Graduates; Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu School

Hawaiian Immersion Graduates; Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu School

This free community event located at the UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language will feature an evening of interactive dialogue as a panel of Hawaiian immersion graduates talk about balancing tradition and technology. Like the 92 million others in their generation, millennials have come of age during a time of rapid technological growth and change. Thus, innovation and development are not goals for their future; they are givens. Strategizing and navigating the transformation necessary to our future livelihood lies in the hands of these “change agents.” Having been raised as the new generation of fluent Hawaiian speakers grounded in tradition and culture lends to a worldview distinct from their fellow millennials.


“ʻImiloa is about bringing people, ideals, and different perspectives together to learn from each other in a uniquely Hawaiian way,”  said Kaʻiu Kimura, Executive Director of ‘Imiloa. “The vision for ʻImiloa as a bi-lingual informal science center was born from the same Hawaiian language revitalization movement that these young adults participated in. They are now well into their careers, from advocates and cultural advisors to development consultants and educators; all of them community leaders in their own ways. We are excited to spend this time with them and gain insight to their thoughts on the change and innovation critical to Hawaiʻi’s future.”

This event will be located at Haleʻōlelo, Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani, the Hawaiian Language College’s building, in the Lumi Pāhiahia. Haleʻōlelo is located just down Nowelo Street from ‘Imiloa towards UH Hilo’s main campus. Join us for the entire evening, from the opening pule, and the screening of a short film featuring some of our panelists, to the interactive panel discussion itself, and finally some “talk story” over refreshments.

The ‘Imiākea: Discovering Maunakea series consists of monthly events hosted by ‘Imiloa, ranging from performances and hands-on workshops with practitioners, to interactive panel discussions with experts in various fields, and community experiences.



Apr 6 16

Global Warming and a Voyage to Other Planets: Join us at April’s Maunakea Skies with Dr. Nobuo Arimoto

by Brea Aamoth

Date: Friday, April 15
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm
General Admission Tickets: $10
Member Tickets: $8

‘Imiloa Presents Dr. Nobuo Arimoto, Director of Subaru Telescope

Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees over the past century, and it is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5 degrees over the next 100 years. If global warming continues at this rate, and if the Earth becomes uninhabitable, what shall we do? If we were to relocate, what planet would be most habitable for us: Mars, Venus or a planet outside our solar system? Discover answers to these questions as Dr. Nobuo Arimoto, Director of Subaru Telescope/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, describes the potential consequences of global warming in April’s Maunakea Skies at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on Friday, April 15 at 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Arimoto will lead a planetarium tour of the solar system and beyond, highlighting discoveries made by Subaru Telescope. He will also discuss exoplanets, or extrasolar planets, which are planets outside of our solar system that orbit a star other than the sun. Since the first discovery of exoplanets in 1988, over 2,000 have been identified. Using Subaru Telescope’s large 8.2 meter (27 feet) diameter primary mirror and pioneering technologies, coupled with superb observation conditions of Maunakea, Hawai‘i based astronomers have discovered dozens of exoplanets. April’s Maunakea Skies will feature these ongoing efforts to find exoplanets.

Dr. Arimoto began an intense interest in astronomy when he was 11 years old, when a neighbor showed him how to use a telescope. He went on to become a student of astronomy at Tohoku University, where he received his Ph.D. in astronomy in 1980. He became Director of the Subaru Telescope in April of 2012. He focuses his scientific research on understanding galaxy evolution and the properties of individual stars within galaxies.

The Maunakea Skies program will be hosted by ‘Imiloa Planetarium Technician, Emily Peavy, who will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai’i, and point out prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year.

‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission cost is $10; $8 for Kupuna, Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members. Pre-purchase tickets at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Apr 5 16

2016 Merrie Monarch Cultural Enrichment at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

by Brea Aamoth

‘Imiloa’s Cultural Enrichment Programs during Merrie Monarch week were filled with live music, hula, educational presentations and celebration. Check out the videos below for a recap of our programming during Merrie Monarch week!

Hula Performances by UNUKUPUKUPU:

UNUKUPUKUPU emerged in 2000 out of Hawaiʻi Community College’s I Ola Hāloa Hawaiian Studies Program. UNUKUPUKUPU serves the learner, employee and community of both Hawaiʻi Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. For more information on the performances by UNUKUPUKUPU, Click Here.

UNUKUPUKUPU is under the direction of Dr. Taupōuri Tangarō.


Hula Drama Hānau Ke Ali’i: Born is a Chief by Hālau Nā Kīpu’upu’u:

Hālau Nā Kīpu’upu’u shared a glimpse of their unique Hānau Ke Ali’i hula drama, the life story of the renowned warrior, King Kamehameha the Great. Illustrated through ancient storytelling, hula, chant and Hawaiian martial arts, Hānau Ke Ali’i is a composite of untold and unpublished stories of Kamehameha. These stories were collected from the elders of the Waimea and Kohala districts who are lineal descendants of Kamehameha. In preparation for this project, Hālau Nā Kīpu’upu’u collaborated with 3,000 Waimea community members to create authentic pieces of art and artifacts, bringing their hula drama to life.

Hālau Nā Kīpu’upu’u is under the Direction of Kumu Hula Micah Kamohoali’i.


Hula Performances by Hula Hālau O Kou Lima Nani Ē:

In celebration of 30 years of Hula Hālau O Kou Lima Nani Ē, Kumu Hula ‘Iwalani Kalima and her ‘ōlapa (dancers) shared their stories and dance as the next generation of hula under the teachings of the late and beloved Uncle George Na’ope. Keeping his legacy alive, Hula Hālau O Kou Lima Nani Ē performed their Hula Ka Wā Kahiko (ancient dances shared through generations), followed by a few hula ‘auana (modern day hula).

Hula Hālau O Kou Lima Nani Ē is under the Direction of Kumu Hula ‘Iwalani Kalima.


Live Music by Mark Yamanaka

Musical Performances by Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award Winner, Mark Yamanaka, helped us celebrate Hawaiian music and culture during Merrie Monarch week. This talented musician, vocalist, composer and proud father shared with us some of Hawaii’s most popular songs as well as some original compositions, featuring songs about both his daughter and son.


Book Signing by the authors of Hānau Ka Ua: Hawaiian Rain Names.

Presentation and Book Signing by Collette Akana and Kiele Gonzalez,  authors of Hānau Ka Ua: Hawaiian Rain Names.
Their recent publication is the fullest record of Hawaiian rain names and lore to date. Drawing on oral tradition and literature, their work is a culmination of approximately three hundred ‘ōlelo Hawai’i primary sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including chants, songs, laments and narratives. Their presentation included hula performances and stories.


A Papakū Makawalu Presentation: He Inoa No Hi’iakaikapoliopele
Viewing our Natural Environment through a Cultural Lens: Hi’iakaikapoliopele is popularly known as the favorite, and most beloved sister of Pele, the volcanic goddess. In that sense, much of her name recognition is due to Pele and her story. But who is Hi’iaka and what is her story? Palm Brandt and Ku’ulei Higashi Kanahele gave us more insight and answers to these questions during their presentation.

With Ku’ulei Higashi Kanahele and Pomai Brandt

Mar 24 16

Constellation Camp at ‘Imiloa – A Success!

by Brea Aamoth

Forty-eight keiki in grades kindergarten through third grade enjoyed four action-packed days of exploration, navigation, experimentation and fun at ‘Imiloa’s Spring Camp ‘IMI-Possible! This spring session was themed Constellation Camp: Mapping the Night Time Sky. 


The children discovered and explored the four navigational star lines that guide our voyagers as they set course and direction to their upcoming destinations. The stories within these stars are named from historical events or people, or also migrations from the Pacific Islands and elsewhere. Today, these stories can help us make decisions that strengthen our families and communities.


An example of one of the stories shared with the children pertains to the stars of Humu. These stars are named after a Hawai‘i Island navigator whose children saved themselves by floating overnight in the rolling waves of the Ka‘ie‘iewaho Channel between O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, all by navigating the stars! This story provided us a great opportunity to teach about buoyancy, the science of floating.

By sharing these constellation stories through the use of arts, crafts, and hands-on science experiments, the students achieve a more complete understanding of our star lines. This kind of multi-sensory learning helps keiki acquire the tools they need to further their life-long learning skills.


In this series of Camp ‘IMI-Possible, the kids also learned about gravity and black holes by exploring ‘Imiloa’s CyberCANOE exhibit. They learned about color and temperature of stars, like how blue stars are actually hotter than red stars, through play-dough art and activities. Science experiments were executed to teach about density, buoyancy, air pressure, reflection, refraction, Newton’s laws and how we find constellations.


Constellation Camp ran from Monday, March 21 through Thursday, March 24. ‘Imiloa features multiple educational and fun intersession programs throughout each year. For more information on youth exploration and intersession camps at ‘Imiloa click here.






Mar 14 16

Hānau ka Ua me ka Makani: Hawaiian Rain and Wind Names Presentation and Book Signing at ‘Imiloa

by Brea Aamoth

Join us on as we journey across the Hawaiian Islands through hula, mele and mo’olelo to explore the rains and winds of the land with authors Collette Leimomi Akana and Kiele Gonzalez. Their recent publication, Hānau ka Ua, is the fullest record of Hawaiian rain names and lore to date, drawing on oral tradition and literature, including approximately three hundred ‘ōlelo Hawai’i primary sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries containing chants, songs, laments and narratives. Book-signing to follow, as well as a hula workshop by Akana, who is chum hula of Hālau Hula o Nā Momi Makamae.

The presentation and book signing will be the opening event at ‘Imiloa’s Merrie Monarch cultural enrichment programs on Wednesday, March 30 from 10:00am to 11:30am. Pre-sale general admission tickets to this session are $10 ($8 for members) and $15 the day of the event. This event is part of the 3-day cultural enrichment programs at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center that run from March 30 – April 1. For full event details click here.