VIDEO: World celebrates first image of a black hole; Pōwehi named by UH Hilo Hawaiian language professor

Astronomers collaborated with Larry Kimura, renowned UH Hilo Hawaiian language professor and cultural practitioner, for the naming of the black hole: Pōwehi.

Black Hole Pōwehi, yellow and red ring in black space
Black Hole Pōwehi

Two of the world’s most powerful telescopes, located atop Maunakea on Hawai‘i Island, played a vital role in producing the world’s very first image of a black hole that now bears a Hawaiian name.

Hawaiʻi-based James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and Submillimeter Array (SMA) are part of the unprecedented Event Horizon Telescope project. JCMT is operated by the East Asian Observatory is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Larry Kimura
Larry Kimura

Astronomers collaborated with renowned UH Hilo Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Hawaiian language professor and cultural practitioner Larry Kimura for the Hawaiian naming of the black hole. Pōwehi, meaning embellished dark source of unending creation, is a name sourced from the Kumulipo, the primordial chant describing the creation of the Hawaiian universe. Pō, profound dark source of unending creation, is a concept emphasized and repeated in the Kumulipo, while wehi, or wehiwehi, honored with embellishments, is one of many descriptions of pō in the chant.

“It is awesome that we, as Hawaiians today, are able to connect to an identity from long ago, as chanted in the 2,102 lines of the Kumulipo, and bring forward this precious inheritance for our lives today,” says Kimura. “To have the privilege of giving a Hawaiian name to the very first scientific confirmation of a black hole is very meaningful to me and my Hawaiian lineage that comes from pō, and I hope we are able to continue naming future black holes from Hawai‘i astronomy according to the Kumulipo.”

In April 2017, a groundbreaking observational campaign brought together eight telescopes at six locations around the globe to capture an image of Pōwehi, a supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy. The announcement was made to the world on April 10.

Read full story at UH System News.