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Black hole relic shines light on Universe

May 20th, 2016
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Astronomers using the eight meter Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea probed an enigmatic, and unexpected, supermassive black hole dominating the core of a large galaxy in the cosmic backwaters.

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a funhouse mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Simulation Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgment for Omega Centauri Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team. Science Credit: NASA, ESA, C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley) and J. Thomas (Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The black region in the center represents the black hole's event horizon, where no light can escape the massive object's gravitational grip. The black hole's powerful gravity distorts space around it like a fun house mirror. Light from background stars is stretched and smeared as the stars skim by the black hole. Simulation Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute). Acknowledgment for Omega Centauri Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team. Science Credit: NASA, ESA, C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley) and J. Thomas (Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

“It’s a bit like finding a skyscraper in a Kansas wheat field, rather than in Manhattan,” says Chung-Pei Ma of the University of California Berkeley, who led the international team of researchers. “We expect to find gigantic black holes in massive galaxies in a crowded region of the universe, where frequent galaxy collisions and cannibalism sustain the black holes' insatiable appetite and allow them to grow to excess. But to find one in relative isolation indicates the black hole has long-ago tapped its sources of matter that allowed it to grow.”

The research, published online on April 6th in the journal Nature, provides a rare glimpse of a supermassive black hole – one with a mass some 17 billion times the mass of our Sun – deep within a rather isolated galaxy, known as NGC 1600, some 200 million light years from our Milky Way Galaxy. Finding such a monster black hole in a galaxy with so few traveling companions is an enigma.

The massive elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by the Digitized Sky Survey, resides in an uncluttered region of space. A close-up view of the galaxy, called NGC 1600, is shown in the inset image, which was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). At the heart of NGC 1600 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever detected. The supersized black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, resides in an unlikely place. The biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This black hole, however, lives in a cosmic backwater town. Astronomers suggest the black hole grew from repeated collisions between its home galaxy and neighboring galaxies, which funneled gas to the massive object. The black hole also may have merged with a black hole from one of the consumed galaxies. The frequent feasts may also explain why NGC 1600 has few neighbors. NGC 1600 is located 209 million light-years from Earth. The NICMOS image was taken on Nov. 10, 1998. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley). Acknowledgment: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/Caltech, UKSTU/AAO, and A. Quillen (University of Rochester)

The massive elliptical galaxy in the center of this image, taken by the Digitized Sky Survey, resides in an uncluttered region of space. A close-up view of the galaxy, called NGC 1600, is shown in the inset image, which was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). At the heart of NGC 1600 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever detected. The supersized black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, resides in an unlikely place. The biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This black hole, however, lives in a cosmic backwater town. Astronomers suggest the black hole grew from repeated collisions between its home galaxy and neighboring galaxies, which funneled gas to the massive object. The black hole also may have merged with a black hole from one of the consumed galaxies. The frequent feasts may also explain why NGC 1600 has few neighbors.
NGC 1600 is 209 million light-years from Earth. The NICMOS image was taken on Nov. 10, 1998. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.-P. Ma (University of California, Berkeley). Acknowledgment: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/ Caltech, UKSTU/AAO, and A. Quillen (University of Rochester)

The presence of this enormous black hole, lurking in a relatively barren outpost of our cosmic neighborhood, also presents an opportunity. The lonely monster, thought to be a primitive relic of galaxy growth, is helping to shed light on how huge black holes could have formed rapidly in the early epochs of our Universe. This, in turn, provides evidence for what is likely a rare leftover power supply for an ancient quasar – objects that shined brilliantly when the Universe was only a few billion years old.

“Other galaxies found to harbor very massive black holes are typically located in dense regions of the Universe populated by many other galaxies and clusters,” says the paper’s lead author, Jens Thomas of the Max Planck Institute of Physics. “By contrast, NGC 1600 is in a modest group of galaxies in a rather mundane part of the sky.”

How can such a large black hole exist now without a substantial source of material to feast on? Thomas points his finger at NGC 1600 itself. “Within the group, NGC 1600 is by far the most brilliant member and outshines other members by at least three times, an indication NGC 1600 may have cannibalized its former neighboring galaxies and their central black holes in its youth.”

“NGC 1600 also appears to have scoured away many of its central stars,” continues Thomas, who believes the black hole within NGC 1600 was once part of a pair of (or even multiple) black holes that worked as a team to gravitationally expel nearby stars. “Rather than devour them,” Thomas says, “the black holes would act like a gravitational slingshot, sending neighboring stars careening out of the galaxy’s core.”

A pair, or multiple black holes would also be expected when galaxies collide and merge, as the team believes happened long ago with NGC 1600.

Understanding this lonely relic galaxy required the power of the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini North eight meter telescope on Mauna Kea. GMOS spectroscopically dissected the light from the core of the galaxy and allowed the team to discover the extreme mass of the black hole.

To map this environment, researchers had to model the surface brightness of the galaxy and velocity distributions around the center of the galaxy, and compare this to orbit superposition models. The collection and analysis of spectroscopic data from Gemini was led by National Research Council Canada (NRC)’s Nicholas McConnell.

“After many years of exemplary service, it’s great to see the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrographs [GMOS] continue to contribute in such a fundamental way to these important areas of astronomy,” said Chris Davis, program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, which, with partner agencies in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Chile, support the operation of the Gemini Observatory. “In just a few months, two separate teams using GMOS published compelling yet contrasting results: one group finding evidence for a supermassive black hole that’s flinging stars outward from its galaxy's core, and another observing a black hole that clings to its stellar neighbors. One wonders what other remarkable things Gemini and this remarkable technology will tell us about supermassive black holes and the cores of distant galaxies in the years to come.”

In addition the Gemini observations, the Mitchell Integral Field Spectrograph at the McDonald Observatory as well as NICMOS on the Hubble Space Telescope probed the core to characterize the sparse stellar environment. To distinguish the mass of the central black hole from the mass associated with starlight, NRC’s John Blakeslee analyzed images from the Hubble Space Telescope

The focus on NGC 1600 for this study was a result of the MASSIVE Survey, supported by the US National Science Foundation. Initiated in 2014, the MASSIVE Survey focuses on about 100 of the most massive, early-type, galaxies within about 300 million light years of the Milky Way. Gemini continues to play a critical role in MASSIVE by measuring the velocities of stars swarming around the galaxies’ supermassive black holes, and thus discovering the black holes’ masses.

Ma speculates the black hole in NGC 1600 might be the tip of an iceberg. “Maybe there are many more monster black holes that don’t live in an obvious skyscraper in Manhattan,” says Ma. “If so, GMOS on Gemini will help us find them.” Ma also notes the masses of the three largest known black holes were all determined by Gemini, including two 10 billion solar mass black holes discovered by her team in 2011.

“If the deficit of stars in the center of NGC 1600 is indeed due to a pair of black holes, then the twins could have coalesced and created gravitational waves,” says Ma. “These would be the supermassive version of the black hole binary detected by Advanced LIGO two months ago.”
The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical eight meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is on Mauna Kea, Hawai`i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together, the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

 

Why The Ocean Matters More Than We Realize

May 13th, 2016
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At a time when the world faces a multitude of potential calamities – ranging from climate change to a struggling oil industry to rapid population growth – the solution could be all around us.

"The Once and Future Ocean." Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

"The Once and Future Ocean." Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

Water, the world’s most valuable element, is the key ingredient to solving Earth’s most vexing problems, says Peter Neill, director of the World Ocean Observatory (www.worldoceanobservatory.org) and author of “The Once and Future Ocean: Notes Toward a New Hydraulic Society.” It’s urgent we stop lamenting our current condition and start focusing on doing something about it, he says.

Peter Neill. Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

Peter Neill. Coutesy: Brittany Thomas

“It’s past time that we look to creating a hydraulic society, organizing our social, financial and political order around water in all its forms, places and uses,” Neill says. “The old paradigm of unlimited growth based on consumption, driven by fossil fuels, is exhausted and on the verge of collapse. We see it all around us – in international conflict and migration, the volatility of the world economy and employment, and at home where the decline underlies so much of what concerns us.”

He says Earth’s population – at 7.4 billion and counting – is putting extraordinary demands on the planet’s resources, which means it’s crucial the world’s leaders and citizens need to look to the ocean and the water cycle as vital resources that must be protected. Neill offers these reasons why that precious water holds the solution to humankind’s survival:

• Water is everywhere and is essential for life. Water covers 70 percent of Earth. It exists in the ocean, in the atmosphere, on and in the Earth, and even in the human body, Neill says. “Without it, regardless of how rich or poor we are, what economic class we’re from, or the color of our skin, we die,” he says.

• The ocean contains a wealth of resources. Food is the obvious one, as evidenced by seafood restaurants that play a prominent role in the dining experience in most cities. But there’s plenty more, Neill says. Salt water can be converted to fresh water, providing a potential solution to droughts like the one now confounding California.

“California has made enormous changes in its water habits because it had to,” Neill says. The ocean’s water also can be harnessed as an energy source, giving us an alternative method for producing electricity and allowing us to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. The ocean even holds possible cures for diseases, Neill says. “It’s also a place for recreation and personal renewal that, if treated with a respect that we haven’t given the land, will sustain us for generations,” he says.

• The ocean helps drive the economy. Globalization can be traced to the first time someone boarded a boat and sailed off with goods to trade with people in some far off land, Neill says. Even in an age of air travel, the ocean remains the major player when it comes to transportation of goods. Roughly 90 percent of the world’s goods are transported by sea.

Neill worries that, as nations, communities and individuals, we will be too slow to recognize the ocean as our refuge from the multiple problems troubling the planet, and as the organizing principle around which our lives need to revolve. “The threats are real and the consequences devastating of continuing forward using the same systems and tools,” Neill says. “We can easily avoid catastrophe by using our imagination and the technologies that are available.”

Inevitably, he says, the ocean is where we must go for fresh water, food, energy, health, political stability, community development and personal renaissance.
“With another two billion people expected to be added to the world population by mid-century, with the exhaustion of the land, with the effects of climate change and extreme weather already evident, we must look for answers,” Neill says. “Where can we find them? In the ocean. We have no choice.”

Music as medicine

May 9th, 2016
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A Hawaii group of holistic healers, cultural practitioners, and musicians blends their acoustic skills into a new CD designed to help heal what ails you. The group believes its album, called Medicine E Merge N Sea Dose, is the first of its kind in a new genre that could be called healing sound.

"Music is healing. Certain vibrations are cohesive with joy and optimal performance, and we've carefully put together an assortment of sound tracks designed to resonate with a person's brain waves to uplift your spirit or even, going deeper, vibrate the very cells in your body to fight illness - like cancer!" asserts executive producer Katie Fisher.

The album starts with a opening chant, and the five other tracks are infused with different intentions and themes. Fisher plays me a few and describes them: "This one is supposed to inspire deep meditation," she says of a slow, haunting, didgeridoo layered song with a haunting melody.

Another one is a quicker, upbeat, flute-dominated piece that Fisher elucidates is meant to call to mind images of sunshine piercing the deep jungle canopy.

Most importantly, she emphasizes, all of the music is created with an intention of bringing the listener unconditional love, light, and healing.

"If you've had a bad day, if you're feeling down, we hope you put on this music and let it reset you. It can be as simple as one track. Taking the time to reset your breathing will help you move away from the flight-or-flight response to a calm, productive rest-and-digest mindset. When you calm the parasympathetic nervous system, you are calmer," she explains.

But it's not all about mind-over-matter. The music, she believes, can also fight real medical issues.

"If you have an illness, we believe this can help. Some of the tracks are harmonious, but some create a dissonant sound. That is an annoying frequency that can bust through undesired cells in the body to help promote wellness," she states.

Fisher likens it best to a common medical method of removing kidney stones. It's called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), and it uses shock waves created outside the body, to travel through the skin and tissues until they hit the stones and fragment them.

She is careful to remind the reader to use this in supplement to one's approved medical treatment, not in place of.

Healing Sound School in session. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

Healing Sound School in session. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

Medicine E Merge N Sea Dose came about organically. "I'm part of the Healing Sound School, formed in 2014, which is a group of people who enjoy coming together to play various instruments and just make beautiful music. Some play traditional Western instruments, some play indigenous instruments like singing bowls, rattles, or sitars. Some don't play instruments, but are chanters. Some people simply bring their love of music and contribute by clapping and laughing," she tells me.

Didgeridoo. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

Didgeridoo. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

Over time, the group realized the sound was uplifting and healing in many ways. One of its members is a recording engineer and thought it would be meaningful to capture the sound to share with the rest of the community. As a labor of love, he recorded the group in early 2015 and spent the next year finalizing the tracks to digital form.

Studio recording. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

Studio recording. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

"We view this as energy medicine. Music is frequency, and all bodies vibrate at a certain rate. If you're out of sync, you can use this to tune into a healthy, natural pattern. It's about getting in balance with yourself so that you can spread that feeling outward and help create a world that's a calmer place," she declares.

Recording a chant. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

Recording a chant. Courtesy: Katie Fisher

An emergency dose of E Merge N Sea is, she hopes, can help get there.

More at http://soulisticholisticshawaii.com/sound-healing/hawaii-healing-sound-school/.

HPD honors Crime Stoppers and Living Treasures

May 2nd, 2016
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The Honolulu Police Community Foundation (HPCF) honors Crime Stoppers Honolulu, in addition to two dedicated community Living Treasures, broadcaster Dr. Larry Price and entertainer Danny Kaleikini, for their years of dedicated service to the community.

Dr. Larry Price. Courtesy: Patricia Milburn

Dr. Larry Price. Courtesy: Patricia Milburn

Dr. Larry Price was formerly a prominent football player and coach, an investigative reporter with KITV(ABC) , and an author. He currently pens political news news columns for MidWeek. Most notably, Dr. Price sits “on the right” of Michael W. Perry on KSSK radio, weekday mornings.  The third "person" in the radio studio is the fearless Posse – the loyal listeners who call in to report a stolen vehicle, burglary, or missing loved one.  Perry & Prices' command of “Never fear, the Posse is here!” sends out a bulletin to all other listeners, who often provide valuable information to Honolulu Police in leading to an arrest.

Danny Kaleikini. Courtesy: Patricia Milburn

Danny Kaleikini. Courtesy: Patricia Milburn

Danny Kaleikini is a well-known singer who performed at the Kahala Hilton for 30 years. Governor John Waihe`e once named him Hawaii's Ambassador of Aloha. Danny made numerous guest appearances on TV show Hawaii Five-O, and continues to support various local charities.

Both these “Living Treasures” continue to be strong advocates for public safety and supporters for HPD and its multitude of community programs. HPCF is privileged to honor their many years of dedicated service to a grateful community.

Courtesy: Patricia Milburn

Courtesy: Patricia Milburn

 

Crime Stoppers Honolulu helps keep Honolulu one of the safest cities in the nation to live, work, and play. The program operates in partnership with the Honolulu Police Department, the media, and the community, to help reduce crime in the community.

The HPCF Annual Honoree Dinner is on Friday, May 6, at Sheraton Waikiki.  This fundraiser fulfill HPCF's mission to provide scholarships for higher education, community service projects helping seniors, and equipment for the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) that could not be obtained through the normal budget process.

President and Founder- and former Police Chief - Lee Donohue states, "The support of our community and businesses helps the foundation foster relationships between the HPD and the community." For more information and tickets or tables sales, contact Donohue at (808) 753-5617.

Elvis croons to administrative professionals on their day

April 12th, 2016
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Administrative Professionals Day is coming up, and here's a twist on the usual lunch outing. Take him or her to Leo Days’ Tribute to Elvis Show on Wednesday, April 27, from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. This special event will be held at the Pomaikai Ballrooms at Dole Cannery on 735 Iwilei Road.

Administrative Professionals Day FINAL

This Elvis Tribute Show features award-winning Elvis performer Leo Days in authentic costumes, a full band, back-up singers, and dancers. Days has performed thousands of shows and festivals throughout the U.S. and the world.

Leo Days' Tribute To Elvis Show. Courtesy: Nancy Bernal

Leo Days' Tribute To Elvis Show. Courtesy: Nancy Bernal

In 2009, Days placed in the top five at Elvis Presley Enterprise’s Ultimate Elvis contest in Memphis. He kicked off the inaugural Elvis Lives Tour in 2010, performing in 26 cities across the United States, and has been invited back every year since its inception.

In 2015, Leo headlined the “Burn’n Love Waikiki” show at The Magic of Polynesia Showroom for four months, which ranked as number one show in Honolulu on Tripadvisor.com. Emcee Al Waterson will be hosting.

Tickets are $45 per person and includes a complete lunch buffet with non-alcoholic beverages and an Elvis inspired dessert, service charge, and tax. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. with the lunch buffet beginning at 11 a.m. Leo Days’ Tribute to Elvis starts at noon.

Photo ops with Days immediately follos the show. Parking is $3 with validation. For reservations or more information, call (08) 695-4496. Last day for reservations is April 25. More at www.pomaikaiballrooms.com.