MAUNA KEA, Hawaii – An incredible image was captured over night on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea. The view is facing Hilo, and it shows last night’s unusual thunderstorm over the east side of the island..
At one point, the lightning is seen occurring with such high frequency that is appears as a fixed light on the cloudcam, which takes a picture every 60 seconds and compiles time-lapse movies from those pictures. Thunder and lightning is rare over Hawaii Island, maybe happening only a handful of times each year.
From the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope:
The Cloud Camera is an experimental high sensitivity camera mounted to the catwalk of CFHT. The purpose of the camera is to take pictures of clouds and other weather at night, even on moonless nights. It only operates from sunset to sunrise.
Because of its sensitivity, even very faint things in the sky can appear very bright. The moon looks a lot like the sun and the planets appear brighter than we are used to seeing them. Even a crescent moon is so bright it saturates the image like the sun does to normal cameras. You can usually tell the difference because when the moon rises you will still see stars but when the sun rises all the stars disappear.
Everything in the sky rises and sets at a different time each day. The “Guides” tool annotates images and movies with approximations of constellations (in red), the names of the five brightest stars in the view (in white), and the planets plus our moon and the sun (in blue). These positions are recalculated for each image to make sure the positions are accurate.
This camera is facing East towards Hilo and you can usually see the lights of the city and the belt road through Hamakua along with boats and barges on the ocean. You can also see inter-island and mainland flights arriving and departing from Hilo airport.
You can visit the CFHT Cloudcam online.
There is another show going on above the clouds atop Mauna Kea, as East Hawaii is getting drenched below. A coating of fresh snow has returned to the 13,000 foot summit.