Skygazing from the Big Island of Hawaii
What a thrill it was see the International Space Station from Waimea earlier this week and to know there are astronauts aboard flying the craft at 17,000 mph 240 miles above the earth! Opportunities like this are just one of the joys of skygazing on the Big Island. With just a little advance planning, Big Island residents and visitors can see all kinds of wonderful sights with the naked eye or binoculars, including the Southern Cross, the Milky Way (both spectacular sights in summer) and Omega Centauri. We can follow Mars moving in retrograde and much, much more.
Mauna Kea — A Destination for Astronomers
Our night skies are fairly free of light pollution and the elevation of Mauna Kea makes the Big Island a desirable destination for both professional astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts. According to the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, there are currently 13 telescopes on Mauna Kea, operated by astronomers from 11 countries. You can watch Canada-France-Hawaii’s Hawaiian Starlight trailer to get a better idea of the kind of images are being captured from atop Mauna Kea — these are amazing shots!
Stargazing from Summit to Sea
When you are ready to take your back yard skygazing to the next level, plan a trip to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at 9,300 ft. where you’ll see millions of stars and be able to look through powerful telescopes to see celestial objects as you’ve never seen them before. Be sure to read the information about planning your visit — it gets cold up on the mountain! In addition to the nightly stargazing program, there are special Saturday night presentations and even escorted summit tours on the weekends.
For those looking to stay a little closer to sea level, Hilo’s Imiloa Astronomy Center offers planetarium shows and many other learning opportunities. In the Waimea area, the W.M. Keck Observatory offers a series of lectures at the Kahilu Theatre that are open to the public. The next event will be on Thursday, December 8. Greg Laughlin, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, will be presenting Oodles of Exoplanets: The Search for Other Habitable Worlds as part of Kahilu Theatre’s free Makana series.
Stargazing at it’s best, just one more reason to love the Big Island!