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Scientific tourism in Hawaii: beyond beeches

The big event was the June 5 transit of Venus across the sun. Our estimates of cosmic distances (size of the galaxy, etc.) depend on estimates of the distance to the nearby stars, which depend on knowing the length of the earth's orbit, which were first estimated from differences with latitude in the duration of the 1761 and 1769 transits. TransitOfVenus.JPG
My brother-in-law, Dean Nomura, took the photo above (near the end of the transit) from Oahu, Hawaii, using his video camera and my Kendrick solar filter. With the same filter on my Celestron 70 mm travel telescope, we could also see four large sunspots not visible in this photo (see NASA photo on Wikipedia). For those without telescopes, the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy provided telescopes and safe-viewing filters at several locations. Venus was visible (barely) without magnification.

There won't be another transit of Venus visible until 2117, at least from Earth. But you could save up for a trip to Mars, to view the 2084 transit of Earth. This assumes fundamentalists don't re-impose burning at the stake for questioning an Earth-centered view of the solar system before we develop the ability to travel to Mars.

Meanwhile, Hawaii has plenty of less-ephemeral opportunities for scientific tourism. Past trips have include snorkeling with sea turtles, getting as close to flowing lava as my heat tolerance would allow, and an impromptu discussion with a technician who maintains research mini-subs. Also lots of cool plants, on hikes and in several great botanic gardens. This time, we hiked above the Hawaii Nature Center (trails shown on Google maps!) and got lost (briefly) at the Ho`omaluhia Botanical Garden. We also signed up for a tour of Kahuku Farms, perhaps the only farm in the world that rotates between eggplants and papaya.
They also grow bananas, lilikoi, and various flowers.

I I particularly enjoyed seeing their huge Casuarina trees, which they called "ironwood." Hawaii has lots of legumes (including the "sensitive plant" and many trees), many of which host nitrogen-fixing rhizobia. Casuarinas also host nitrogen-fixing symbionts, but they aren't legumes and their symbionts aren't closely related to rhizobia. Casuarinas are related to beeches, but they look remarkably like conifers, with needle-like leaves and cone-like flowers. To see the resemblance, look at a Casuarina photo (with a sea turtle laying eggs in the background) posted previously, which I took on Heron Island, during the Applied Evolution Summit.

If you find yourself in Hawaii without bird, plant, and hiking books, the central library in downtown Honolulu is wonderful -- lots of classic science fiction and shaded courtyard -- and the branch libraries aren't bad. You can buy a guest membership if you want to use their internet access or borrow a book.


I've found the Celestron 70mm to be a useful scope with a solar filter - nice to hear you've had good results with it. Waiting until 2117 for the next transit sounds a bit of a long stretch to me - hmm, when do you think the first humans will get to Mars?
Thanks for the post,

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