Saturday December 14, 2019
Home Lead Story Earthquake Th...

Earthquake Then Volcano, There is No Relief For the Hawaii Residents

Hundreds of people have evacuated from Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people, and Lanipuna Gardens.

0
//
Scientists have been in the field measuring the eruptions 24 hours a day, seven days a week since Kilauea first exploded more than two months ago.
Scientists have been in the field measuring the eruptions 24 hours a day, seven days a week since Kilauea first exploded more than two months ago. Pixabay

A massive quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale jolted Hawaii residents were evacuating from their homes following a volcanic eruption that has not showed any signs of slowing down, authorities said.

The temblor that struck 16 km southwest of Leilani Estates at 12.32 p.m., on Friday, was one of more than 110 earthquakes that hit the island since the Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active, erupted on Wednesday, reports CNN.

US Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist Jana Pursley said there have been 119 earthquakes on the Big Island since Thursday afternoon.

The USGS said Friday’s 6.9 quake was the most powerful on the island since 1975.

About 14,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light lost power immediately after the earthquake.

About 14,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light lost power immediately after the earthquake.
Earthquake in Hawaii, IANS

The quake has knocked out power to residents who were already dealing with mandatory evacuation orders, molten rock and high levels of sulphur dioxide in the air.

The situation wasn’t getting any better, Civil Defence Administrator Talmadge Magno told reporters on Friday afternoon.

“Activity continues. It doesn’t look like it is slowing down,” CNN quoted Magno as saying.

He said five volcanic vents have opened and indicated that at least one house and another structure were destroyed by lava.

It is highly unusual to see the vents so far from Kilauea volcano, he said.

Hundreds of people have evacuated from Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people, and Lanipuna Gardens.

Harry Kim, Mayor of Hawaii County, said the government will support residents, including those who want to go back to their homes to pick up some belongings.

“We have to work with them as to how we are going to minimise (the inconveniences) as best as possible,” he said.

Also Read: An Idaho University Misses Small Amount of Plutonium, Fined $8,500 

Kim said people who want to check on their homes would be allowed into the neighbourhoods.

Cracks in Kilauea volcano’s rift zone — an area of fissures miles away from the summit — erupted on Thursday and early Friday, spurting lava near the island’s eastern edge.

Video posted on social media showed lava spewing several feet into the air from a new crack in a Leilani Estates street.

Aerial videos showed lava searing a long orange and smoky line through a wooded area.

Hawaii Governor David Ige has activated the National Guard to help with evacuations and security. (IANS)

Next Story

Hawaii Islands’ Highest Peak, Mauna Kea, Best Place for World’s Largest Telescope

Thirty Meter Telescope officials acknowledge that their backup site atop a peak on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma

0
Hawaii, Islands, Mauna Kea
FILE - This file image made by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows M106 with additional information captured by amateur astronomers. VOA

When starlight from billions of years ago zips across the universe and finally comes into focus on Earth, astronomers want their telescopes to be in the best locations possible to see what’s out there. Hawaii

Despite years of legal battles and months of protests by Native Hawaiian opponents, the international coalition that wants to build the world’s largest telescope in Hawaii insists that the islands’ highest peak — Mauna Kea — is the best place for their $1.4 billion instrument.

But just barely.

Thirty Meter Telescope officials acknowledge that their backup site atop a peak on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma is a comparable observatory location, and that it wouldn’t cost more money or take extra time to build it there.

Hawaii, Islands, Mauna Kea
When starlight from billions of years ago zips across the universe and finally comes into focus on Earth, astronomers want their telescopes to be in the best locations possible. Pixabay

There’s also no significant opposition to putting the telescope on La Palma like there is in Hawaii, where some Native Hawaiians consider the mountain sacred and have blocked trucks from hauling construction equipment to Mauna Kea’s summit for more than a month.

But Hawaii has advantages that scientists say make it slightly better: higher altitude, cooler temperatures, and rare star-gazing moments that will allow the cutting-edge telescope to reach its full potential.

“Every once in a while at Mauna Kea, you get one of those magic nights,” said University of California, Santa Cruz astronomy and astrophysics professor Michael Bolte, a Thirty Meter Telescope board member. “When the air is super stable above the site, you get images that you simply couldn’t get anyplace else.”

Bolte, who has used existing Mauna Kea telescopes, said those “magic” Hawaii nights could hold discoveries that might be missed in La Palma.

Also Read- DNA Sustains More Damage and Gets Fixed Less Often When Blood Sugar Levels are High

“Let’s suppose one of your big science cases is to look for life on planets that are orbiting other stars,” he said. “The star is so much brighter than the planet you’re trying to observe, it’s really hard to do.”

The advanced optics and huge size of the Thirty Meter Telescope, especially if built at Mauna Kea’s higher altitude, could allow scientists to more easily detect potentially life-filled planets, Bolte said.

To see distant planets near bright stars, astronomers use telescopes to capture infrared light that emanates from the space objects.

But John Mather, an astrophysicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on the Big Bang theory, says there are other ways to get that data.

Hawaii, Islands, Mauna Kea
Despite years of legal battles and months of protests by Native Hawaiian opponents, the international coalition that wants to build the world’s largest telescope in Hawaii insists. Pixabay

Mather, the senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, planned for launch into space in 2021, said the new instrument will be extremely effective at gathering infrared light. The atmosphere won’t get in the way of the telescope’s imaging capabilities because it won’t be on Earth.

Data from the Webb telescope can be combined with information from other Earth-based telescopes to compensate for the infrared advantage that Mauna Kea has over La Palma, Mather said.

He said Webb will open up “new territory that you’ll never be able to tackle from the ground.”

Mather is also working on a longer-term solution to the problem of seeing Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars, which he likened to seeing a “firefly next to a spotlight.”

Also Read- India Needs to Define Special Placement of Function of Intelligence in Interest of National Security

It’s a large “star shade” that would be launched far into space and positioned to block bright stars while allowing telescopes on Earth to see the planets orbiting them.

Those advancements could level the playing field between places such as Mauna Kea and La Palma, said astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who chairs Harvard University’s astronomy department.

“One thing that you need to keep in mind is that humans can change the system as to compensate for the slightly worse conditions” in Spain, Loeb said. “In the end, it might perform as well or maybe even better.”

Loeb agreed that Mauna Kea is a slightly better location for infrared observations. But La Palma is “an excellent site, so there would be exceptional science done there,” he added.

The Native Hawaiian opponents call themselves “protectors” of Mauna Kea and aren’t concerned about their mountain’s advantages for astronomers. They just want the telescope group to abandon Hawaii.

That would “be a win for everyone,” said protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta shortly after Thirty Meter Telescope officials announced they would move forward with a building permit application for the La Palma site a few weeks ago.

“There’s lots of good science to be done from the Canary Islands,” Pisciotta said.

Not all Native Hawaiians are opposed to the telescope. Some tout the educational and economic opportunities it would bring to the Big Island. Others have compared modern astronomers to their Polynesian ancestors who used stars to navigate their wooden outriggers across the Pacific and discover new lands — including Hawaii.

Mauna Kea stands nearly 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) above sea level, more than twice as high as the Spanish site that is already home to the world’s largest optical telescope. Like Hawaii’s Big Island, the Spain site has good weather, a stable atmosphere and very little light pollution.

Thirty Meter Telescope would be a next generation model that’s expected to transform ground-based astronomy — allowing scientists to see deeper into space than previously possible. Its large mirror will produce sharper, more detailed images of space.

“You can get images that are 12 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope,” Bolte said.

And most of the same science planned for Hawaii would still get done in Spain — it would just take longer.

“Depending on the kind of science you want to do, it’s going to be a 10% hit to a 50% hit in speed,” Bolte said. “You are going to have to observe that much longer at La Palma to get the same quality data.”

José Manuel Vilchez, an astronomer with Spain’s Higher Council of Scientific Research and a former member of the scientific committee of the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands, said that building the telescope on La Palma would not be a downgrade.

“We are talking about the best of the best. One is a 10, the other is a 9.9,” Vilchez said. “We are talking about decimals.”

But for astronomers, decimals can make the difference between seeing something extraordinary and missing it.

“Mauna Kea, since it is higher, would have a thinner atmospheric layer and would observe more in certain infrared ranges,” Vilchez said. “The possibility of capturing the image is lower” on La Palma.

Vilchez also said there is greater public support for the telescope in Spain and that the cost of operating it at a lower elevation would be cheaper.

On Mauna Kea “you are further away from the base and the cost goes up,” Vilchez said. “In the Canary Islands the institutional support is 100% and 99% of citizens support the astronomy work.”

That lack of opposition is something officials cannot claim for Mauna Kea.

The telescope group’s Bolte said what began as opposition to the project has “become the focus of the whole Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination” movement and is a reflection of how Native Hawaiians have felt “displaced from their own lands” for over a century.

“Now that they have the attention of everyone by stopping this telescope, how can that be used to somehow take some steps forward in the well-being of Native Hawaiians?” he asked. (VOA)