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Latest Science News

The Science Behind Hawaii’s ‘Smiley Face’ Volcano

The Science Behind Hawaii’s ‘Smiley Face’ Volcano

[source] A “smiling” volcano has gone viral. Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has been actively erupting since 1983, and it’s one of the most active volcanoes in the world, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). But the volcano received more attention recently when the volcano’s lava formed what looks like a smiley face. The smiley face appeared in a lava lake crater on the west flank of Pu’u ‘O’o, on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone, according to Janet Babb, a geologist with the USGS’ Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. [Explosive Images: Hawaii’s Kilauea Erupts for 30 Years] Pu’u ‘O’o also recently made headlines when the lava flow reached the ocean for the first time in three years. While it may seem like Kilauea was smiling for the cameras, the “face” has a more scientific explanation: The bright spots and incandescent line that created the face shape were produced by normal volcanic activity. As a lava lake circulates, lava upwelling and downwelling will occur on opposite sides of the lake, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. This often results in a spattering of molten lava, which creates bright spots on the dark-colored, semi-solid lake surface. Circulation can also cause sections of the surface to pull apart, revealing the lava beneath and creating lines. By chance, these processes occurred in a pattern that created the smiling image, Babb said. “The Pu’u ‘O’o lava lake just happened to produce two spattering sources (bright dots) that have been interpreted as ‘eyes’ and an incandescent line that has been interpreted as a ‘mouth’ — with the two lake surface features located relative to each other to produce the... read more
From atop Mauna Kea, UH scientists are finding exoplanets, boosting the chance of discovering alien life

From atop Mauna Kea, UH scientists are finding exoplanets, boosting the chance of discovering alien life

[source] University of Hawaii astronomers were part of a globe-spanning team that recently announced the discovery of more than 100 new planets orbiting stars beyond our own solar system. These new exoplanets, confirmed in part through observations made from Hawaii-based telescopes, reveal an unprecedented range of diversity in the places and ways in which planets can form. And the study’s findings further raise the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial life. “One of my favorite quotes comes to mind, from Arthur C. Clarke,” said Evan Sinukoff, a co-author of the study and a graduate student at the UH Manoa Institute for Astronomy. “‘Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the universe or we are not — both are equally terrifying.’” This artist’s concept shows a crop of more than 100 planets, discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Those planets include four in Earth’s size range orbiting a single dwarf star. NASA/JPL “We all know how easily fear can motivate people,” he laughed, then added, “What keeps me going into work every day is my desire for exploration and the notion that I’m contributing a chapter to a journey thousands of years in the making … and coffee.” The Flea And The Street Lamp To find these new planets, an international group of astronomers collaborated on a specific set of observations made with NASA’s orbiting Kepler Space Telescope, launched in 2009. Sinukoff said they started by taking measurements of more than 10,000 stars, in five different patches of the sky, each of which they monitored for three months. They looked for specific changes in a star’s brightness, potentially caused by an... read more

Local Events

Gemini Portable Planetarium

Gemini Portable Planetarium

PUEO and Gemini’s StarLab The first of sevearal events with Gemini took place last week when Alexis Ann Acohido and Janice Harvey from the Gemini Telescope came to the RISE building in Keaukaha and they brought the entire universe along with them for show and tell.  Using a unique inflatable planetarium they quickly inflated their portable universe.   Once it is fully inflated the inside becomes a giant projection screen where the planetarium show takes place.  Gemini has a wide range of material for all different ages ranging from 8 to 18 years old.  Some of what they cover includes: The planets in the Solar System and our place in the universe Patterns of daily celestial motions and orbiting bodies The sequence of Moon phases and the apparent changes in the Sunʻs path through the seasons The lives of stars and the history of constellations in the context of world culture Astronomy and its importance to Hawaiians for navigation across the Pacific Follow this link to learn more about their program. The best thing about this is you can learn how to operate this planetarium and borrow it, for free along with free training, and put on your own shows for kids and have a star party. The material is easy to use and covers a wide range of subjects.  They all had a great time!  ... read more

PUEO/KOYD Event for Kids Sept. 24

Everyone is welcome to join us for a kids event on Sept. 24 at Palekai (breakwater) or Radio Bay in Hilo! The location is on the little road to the left after the cruise ship port and Aloha Petroleum along Kalanianaole Ave when heading away from downtown Hilo. Let your friends and family know!  We hope to see you there!... read more