This Isn't Just a Black Hole. It's 'Powehi'

A Hawaiian name is given in honor of its contribution
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2019 7:26 AM CDT
This Isn't Just a Black Hole. It's 'Powehi'
This image released Wednesday, April 10, 2019, by Event Horizon Telescope shows a black hole. Scientists revealed the first image ever made of a black hole after assembling data gathered by a network of radio telescopes around the world.   (Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration/Maunakea Observatories via AP)

"As soon as he said it, I nearly fell off my chair." That was the reaction from the deputy director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. It's one of two telescopes on Mauna Kea that was used to produce the first-ever image of a black hole in a global effort that involved eight telescopes. Hawaii's hefty contribution led to the black hole found in the M87 galaxy being given a Hawaiian name: Powehi. University of Hawaii-Hilo Hawaiian language professor Larry Kimura worked with astronomers to come up with the name, which hails from an 18th-century chant about the creation of the universe called the Kumulipo, reports the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

"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," said Kimura. Powehi translates to "the adorned fathomless dark creation" or "embellished dark source of unending creation," reports the AP. A press release from the university gets more specific, saying po means "profound dark source of unending creation ... while wehi, or wehiwehi, honored with embellishments, is one of many descriptions of po in the chant." Indeed, Hawaii Public Radio cites Kimura as saying the chant contains hundreds of forms of po—which seems all too appropriate to one astronomer involved in capturing the image, who says there may be that many black holes waiting to be discovered. (The black hole image made this scientist a star.)

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