Astronomy Faces A Field-Defining Choice In Choosing The Next Steps For The TMT
“Science, when done properly, is an endeavor undertaken by humanity as a single civilization, for the benefit of all and to the detriment of none. Yes, it’s true that the TMT has chosen a site for construction designed to minimize its environmental impact across a wide variety of metrics. Yes, the President of the American Astronomical Society has put out a nuanced and compassionate statement cautioning against many of the pitfalls of the past.
And yes, it’s true that from a purely technical perspective, Mauna Kea is vastly superior to the second-choice site in Spain, which is at a lower elevation by approximately 1,800 meters (about 1.1 miles). But all of these facts, true though they might be, are not the only factors at play here. At stake are two completely independent issues: the future of astronomy and the right to self-determination of a historically marginalized indigenous population.”
For many years now, the astronomy community has clashed with a divided indigenous population in Hawaii over the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Astronomers want the best telescope at the best physical site possible, while many members of the native population want to be able to choose how they protect and honor perhaps their greatest natural resource: the summit of Mauna Kea. It’s a complex, nuanced issue, and you should be aware of a great many of the facets surrounding it.
Astronomy is facing a field-defining choice in how they act next. May it be in a fashion that values a good outcome for all parties involved.
What’s Happening At Kilauea In Hawaii? 16 Questions With A Front-Line USGS Scientist
“I think Hawaii is a unique place on this planet. These volcanoes are well-studied and have a long, historic record. People have lived here over 1,600 years and learned how to live in harmony with active volcanoes, understanding, respecting, and in many cases, revering these wonders of nature. I think this combination of modern scientific monitoring and Hawaiian cultural appreciation for the volcanoes makes for a very supportive atmosphere where residents and scientists alike can come together in mutual admiration for the power of volcanoes. They are creating new land, for example, which is a beautiful think. The hazard can be disastrous, of course, but people need to realize that we can’t stop it. All we can do is get out of the way.”
There’s a lot of fearsome news, and a lot of impressive pictures of destruction, coming out of Hawaii these days. But in truth, this is the most well-studied set of volcanoes in the world, and the scientific response to these events has led to one of the most well-managed natural disasters in human history. Although thousands have been evacuated from their homes, no one has been killed, and injuries have been extraordinarily rare. Only a very small portion of one island has been affected, and most of the dangers facing residents are no different, property damage aside, than the dangers they’ve faced continuously over the past decade.
Why is this? I had the chance to talk with a front-line USGS scientist, Brian Shiro, who’s on site at the Kilauea eruption. Come see the full interview here!
The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Is A Trusted Source For The Kilauea Eruption
“5.) Maps of what’s happening and where. This is perhaps the greatest resource for determining what’s occurring and where. They show fissures and flows, including present, recent, and past lava flows. They display thermal maps of the fissure system and the lava flows that have occurred, overlaid atop satellite imagery. Occasionally, they have radar images that show how things like the eruptive vent at the summit has changed over the past few weeks. Most importantly, they have updated flow fronts, lava pools, lava channels, and ocean entry points. This way, you can know not only where the lava is at any moment, but where the lava flows are headed, and how that’s changed over time.”
On May 3rd, 2018, new cracks and fissures opened up around Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii, creating new flows and channels of lava. The next day, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake occurred: the largest in Hawaii in over 40 years. Since then the Kilauea eruption has intensified to rival its highest levels of the past century, with dangers coming from lava flows, channels, and fountains, vog and noxious gases, and volcanic ash. Despite these incredible dangers, however, there’s little worry that this will become as disastrous or deadly as the legendary 1790 eruption, despite the fact that hundreds of times as many people live on Hawaii now as did back then. Why? The incredible work of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in collecting and disseminating information.
Find out all that you can learn, and where, about the latest results and updates on the Kilauea eruption from the most trusted source in the game.