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gAstronomy & Exoplanets: Food for Thought!

July 22, 2014

Figure 1. Bill (left) and Steve (right) relate exoplanet chemistry to the preserving of blueberry puree.

Figure 2. Steve shows a very engaged nine year old how to create slime.

Figure 3. Steve and Bill create an exotic foam column, demonstrating the use of foam in the kitchen.

Figure 4. Bill and Steve create fruit spheres and provide tasty treats for the audience.

Figure 5. The team's "anti-gravity machine" keeps frozen bubbles aloft.

Figure 6. Bill (right) and Steve (second from right) share their ideas and exoplanet-inspired cooking with Hale Pohaku cook Jason Hashimoto (second from left) as they prepare food for observatory staff at the Mauna Kea mid-level facilities. Also shown is Charlie Fabella (left) who is assisting the team in the kitchen.

On Saturday evening, July 19th, Gemini Observatory, in a partnership with the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center shared with Hawai'i residents "The Adventures of gAstronomy!" Dr. Steve Howell, Project Scientist for NASA's Kepler Planet Finding Mission, and Chef Bill Yosses, former White House Executive Pastry Chef, wowed the audience with their speculation about the conditions on selected exoplanets -- which inspire recipes for chefs like Yosses.

Numerous samples of exoplanet-inspired culinary delights, from mango spheres, to exotic foams, and polymers, titillated audience's taste buds throughout the evening. “The excitement of discovering thousands of exoplanets can be brought right into your kitchen,” said Howell, who added that, “The same science principles astronomers use to understand alien worlds are used to create marvels of culinary delight.” Together, Howell and Yosses have combined modern molecular gastronomy methods, and basic physics, to teach a little of both, and provide exotic taste treats.

“We believe the enthusiasm we have for cooking and science is contagious and this event at the ‘Imiloa Planetarium proves that new discoveries in one field can generate waves of new ideas in others. We want to thank the Gemini and ‘Imiloa teams, the volunteers, and the Hilo community for their support,” Chef Yosses noted.

We hope these photos capture some of the event’s “flavor!”

Dr. Howell and his research/observing team are in Hilo/Hawai'i Island to observe with the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea. Using their visiting instrument -- DSSI (Differential Speckle Survey Instrument) – they will confirm and explore dozens of Kepler discovered exoplanet candidates.