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For Tuesday, November 8, 2011

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services


Harmless asteroid to wing by Earth today

Hawaii observatories are not in a good position to track an asteroid that will pass relatively close to Earth today.

The 1,200-foot-wide space boulder, named 2055 YU55, will make its approach during daylight hours here, according to NASA.

The best time to watch it is around 9 p.m. Greenwich time -- 11 a.m. Hawaii time -- and the best place is in the eastern Atlantic or western Africa, NASA says. At 1:28 p.m. Hawaii time it will come within 202,000 miles of Earth. That is less than the distance to the moon.

The asteroid poses no danger, but Earth has been hit by space rocks before and will again.

Locating and tracking near-Earth asteroids is the mission of Pan-STARRS, which has an observatory on Haleakala, Maui.

"Our job is to find these things before they are this close," said Ken Chambers, a University of Hawaii astronomer and director of the Pan-STARRS Telescope 1. "We are currently finding one near-Earth object a day. This particular one was found in 2005, before we were up and running, but we found 30 last month."

Pan-STARRS stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System.


Man gets jail term for sexual assault

A federal judge has sentenced a 25-year-old man to 21 months in prison for a 2010 sexual assault in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the National Park Service said in a news release.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright also sentenced Jeffrey Donald Drye on Nov. 3 to one year of supervised release and a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender with the state.

A federal jury convicted Drye on June 20 of abusive sexual contact but found him not guilty of first-degree sexual assault.

The park service said the incident happened on Jan. 30, 2010, when Drye, two other adult males and a girl hiked into the park's Kahuku unit at night. The group made a campfire, during which time two men returned to their vehicle about a mile away to retrieve food, leaving Drye alone with the girl. That is when the sexual assault took place, the park service said.

Airport cleanup focus of meeting

The Army Corps of Engineers is looking to remove toxic chemicals found in a military landfill at the old Puunene airport site on Maui.

A spokesman for the Corps of Engineers Honolulu District said studies have found toxic and possibly carcinogenic chemicals in the 6.5-acre Maui Airport Landfill, the Maui News reported.

Corps spokesman Joseph Bonfiglio said the chemicals are not considered a threat to ground water.

The Army and Navy used the airport from the 1930s to the '50s.

A meeting on the cleanup proposal will be held at Pomaikai Elementary School on Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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