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Stargazing on Hawaii’s Big Island


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Hawaii’s Big Island is home to one of the most renowned astronomical sites on the planet. Perched high atop Maunakea, rising 4,205 metres feet above sea level, 13 telescopes, representing 11 countries, are watching the heavens and making discoveries beyond our imaginations.

Here, on the tallest sea mountain in the world, experts and visitors are treated to a show that few have experienced. At this elevation, and because of the clear air and minimal light pollution, the stars can light the sky like glitter. The sunsets above the clouds can also be spectacular.

Guided stargazing tours offer transport, warm parkas, dinner, access to the mountain summit, detailed narratives about the history and cultural significance of Maunakea as well as night viewing. For those who want to venture up on their own, a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended; however the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at the 2,800 metre level is accessible via two-wheel drive vehicles (check with your car rental company to see if access to Maunakea is allowed). Anyone wishing to venture above this point must have a four-wheel drive. The visitors’ centre is open daily, and offers summit tours and public stargazing. (The high altitude may be a health hazard for some and can produce serious life-threatening conditions. Be sure to familiarise yourself with safety precautions before travelling upslope Maunakea). To learn more click here.

You can also study the stars from sea level at the new Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. Imiloa, which means, “exploring new knowledge,” opened to the public in early 2006 and is housed beneath three striking titanium cones representing volcanoes. The centre offers two perspectives of Maunakea: its sacred cultural significance to Hawaiians and its importance as the world’s foremost astronomy site. The large planetarium features an IMAX-style movie presentation that makes viewers feel as though they’re flying through space. Look up to the stars and discover even more beauty on Hawaii’s Big Island.