Pōwehi, the embellished dark source of unending creation

This comes in from Hawaiian NCF friend and member Stafford Clarry:

For a moment, let’s step off our very troubled Earth and journey to a place 55 million light-years away! Through wonderful international cooperation, that’s where astrophysical scientists confirmed and pictured for the first time the existence of a black hole. This is a stupendous, amazing extraordinary achievement.

(One light-year is the distance light travels in a year. How far is that? Light travels at approximately 300,000 kilometers/186,000 miles per second. How many seconds in a year? Or try 1,080,000,000 kilometers/671,000,000 miles per hour. How many hours in a year? Try doing the math.)

This recently shared first picture of a black hole was developed in super secrecy by scientists using a supercomputer that processed data collected two years ago from a network of eight astronomical facilities (radio telescopes) located on four of seven continents.

One of these places is Hawaii with two of the astronomical facilities that collected data to picture the black hole. The Hawaii radio telescopes are on top of Maunakea mountain where thirteen telescopes are located, including the second (twin) and fifth biggest telescopes in the world, which were not involved in picturing the black hole; they are optical, not radio, telescopes.

Maunakea is the tallest mountain in the world (from its base on the ocean floor – 10,000 meters/33,000 feet), the summit is 4,200 meters/13,800 feet above sea level. Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the air at the top of Maunakea is usually very clean and clear, with virtually no artificial light to disturb astronomical observations.

Many centuries ago – long before contact with the Western world – Native Hawaiians determined the origin of creation to be a place of unfathomable intense darkness. They called it “pō”. This first pictured black hole has been given a Hawaiian name, Pōwehi, which means “embellished dark source of unending creation”.

The summit of Maunakea is less than a two-hour drive from my Hawaii home in Hilo. On New Year’s Day, we usually go to the top of Maunakea before sunrise to greet the first light of the new year.

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