North Hawaii News Articles from CFHT
Surfin' in Hawaii
I was on the beach last week, enjoying the sunshine after catching a
few waves from the South swell. I talked to the fellow next to me. To
make a long story short, he was in absolute disbelief when he saw my
board and I told him I was an astronomer. So I'd like to double check
with you: What do you think astronomers look like? I mean, in real
life? What is your image of "the" typical astronomer?
Do you have that old-fashioned guy in mind, the gentleman in a tweed
jacket smoking a pipe next to a telescope? Nice guess, but naaaa, try
again. They don't make them like that anymore. What about the "mad
scientist" look? Wild hair, funny clothes that don't match, ring
glasses... well, although it is a closer description of me, it does
not really apply to the majority of astronomers either.
And what if all astronomers were good surfers, really good surfers!
Did you know we actually spend most of our days doing just that,
surfing. And you can tell my boss too because I'm talking about
surfing the internet! Of course, I surf too, real surf, but less often
and I still qualify as a safety hazard for my surf buddies I
guess. But that's a different story.
So, in this week's column I would like to share with you a few of my
surfing tips. Nice internet addresses that contain entertaining and
informative material for the sky gazer in each of us. Of course this
list is not complete and, well, I'm listing my favorites only. But
it may be a good start.
Internet is rapidly growing in popularity and the amount of
information available on the WEB is just astonishing. You can find
everything out there! To us astronomers, it has become as useful as a
Internet started about thirty years ago, mostly driven by national
defense purposes. It was also used by universities and research
labs. It took off fairly slowly but since the early nineties it has
been used by a wide and rapidly growing fraction of the population.
The observatories located in Hawaii did of course follow the trend and
all the telescopes located at the summit of Mauna Kea maintain
websites. Our site at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope can be found
http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu. The Institute for Astronomy (http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu) at the
University of Hawaii, maintains a website with complete information
about the Mauna Kea Observatories. Click on "Mauna Kea" to discover a
nice aerial picture of the summit and click on a dome to identify a
telescope and get its internet address.
A cool feature of many of these websites is the possibility to look at
the summit in real-time. Cameras are mounted on the sides of a few
buildings and the images are available, updated every five
minutes or so. They allow astronomers to check whether the sky is
cloudy or not for example, or whether there is enough snow to block
the roads. See
http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/ObsInfo/Weather , about
halfway down the page, under "Views of the Mauna Kea Summit".
Images with good and simple scientific explanations prepared for the
non-specialist audience are also available. At Canada-France-Hawaii
Telescope we set-up a page each week featuring a result obtained
lately with our instruments. This page, called the "CFHT Astronomy
Picture of the Week", can be found at
more simply by clicking on the "picture of the week" button on CFHT's
Another site called the Astronomy Picture of the Day, offers a daily
astronomical image. The topics covered are wide, but the explanations
attached to the images are shorter. The site has been going since 1995
and contains the largest collection of annoted astronomical images on
the internet. Find it at http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod .
For those of you interesting in finding where the stars and planets
are, their names and Myths, and many other information, the
Skywatching Center (http://www.earthsky.com/Features/Skywatching) or
the web site of the monthly astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope
(http://www.skypub.com) is for you.
All the addresses quoted above contain numerous links to other
sites. They should guarantee hours of fun and unexpected
discoveries. Surf's up, got to go!