Last year, Jessica Dempsey, assistant director of the James Clerk Maxwell telescope in Maunakea, Hawaii, asked for help to upgrade a detection system in the deep space. She turned to Uncle Larry.
Uncle Larry, better known as Larry Kimura, associate professor of Hawaiian language and student at the University of Hawaii, listened to describe the system as a way of detecting dark and cold things in the air. 39, universe and an imperceptible light for the man. eye.
On site, he suggested "namakanui", referring to a large-eyed fish that swam in Hawaiian waters at night.
Six months later, Professor Kimura's reflections would attract much more attention as his officials attributed to him the name of the very first image of a black hole.
Dr. Dempsey and other researchers described the picture to him two weeks ago. She said that she had seen her face "light up". At a time that she described as "amazing" and "hallucinating," he found a Hawaiian word for the black hole that brought scientists six research papers to capture: pōwehi.
The word is derived from Kumulipo, a centuries-old Hawaiian chant composed of 2,102 lines. It means "unfathomable dark creation". It comes from "pō", which means powerful, unfathomable and incessant creation, and "wehi," an honorific title worthy of someone who would wear a crown, "said Professor Kimura during an interview on Friday. .
"Pōwehi as a name is so powerful because it provides true truths about the black hole image we see," said Dr. Dempsey in a video published by the university.
Professor Kimura, who has been studying singing for years, said that the name "everything has just been put in place".
He stated that he considered the attention he was receiving as "a great event for the science and revitalization of the Hawaiian language and identity". He stated that this would help promote the preservation of the Hawaiian indigenous language, which had been endangered.
Professor Kimura's involvement stems from the use of two of the most powerful telescopes in the world at the top of Maunakea on the island of Hawaii – the The telescope and the James Clerk Maxwell submillimeter network – part of the Event Horizon Telescope project that captured the image of the black hole.
Geoffrey C. Bower, chief scientist for operations in Hawaii at the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics Academia Sinica, said the appointment was due in part to the suggestion to translate a press release regarding the image of the hole black in Hawaiian.
Professor Kimura was the natural expert to consult, said Dr. Bower, adding that it would also have been suggested to give a name to the black hole, but that no one really knew what to expect .
"It was remarkable for the simplicity of the language and its resonance in the astrophysical concept of what we saw," he said.
Until now, pōwehi has been adopted as the official Hawaiian name for the black hole. Governor David Y. Ige of Hawaii issued a proclamation declaring April 10 "Pōwehi Day".
A more formal endorsement of the name should come from the International Astronomical Union, said Dr. Bower. A submission to the union would come only if the consortium of more than 200 scientists and 13 funding institutions involved in the project agreed to support it, he said.
Dr. Dempsey noted that Professor Kimura had helped to give the Hawaiian name Oumuamua to an asteroid discovered in 2017.
NASA has described the asteroid, formerly known as 1I / 2017 U1, as "the first confirmed object coming from another star to visit our solar system" and an "interstellar intruder".
Professor Kimura said that the name Oumuamua was an old Hawaiian word that meant "scout" or "to be in the foreground".