3D Planetarium, Telescopes, and Space Center

If you love Astronomy, the Island of Hawaii has a lot of fun activities for you and your family to enjoy. The summit of Mauna Kea has more telescopes than anywhere in the world and a lot of money and effort have been invested in Astronomy education and information centers around the island.

Mauna Kea Visitors Center

The 13,796 foot (4205 m) summit of Mauna Kea has the most optical telescopes in the world and the clearest view of the skies of any location on earth. The largest telescope in the world, Keck, is located on Mauna Kea and a new even larger 10 Meter Telescope is being constructed there. The reason that Mauna Kea is so perfect for optical telescopes is that the air is dry and pollution-free. Hawaii island has further enhanced the location by controlling light pollution through special street lights to keep light from impacting the telescopes.

Observatory on Mauna Kea

Driving up to the telescopes can be hazardous due to road conditions, weather, and potential health impacts from the high altitude of the summit. There are tours to the Mauna Kea telescopes which may be the easiest and safest way to get up close to the telescopes.

But a drive half-way up to the Mauna Kea visitors center can be fun. The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Center is the visitor’s center to the Mauna Kea telescopes located below the summit at the 9,200-foot (2800 m) level on the Mauna Kea access road. Here is a look at the drive up to the visitors center. The Visitor's center has exhibits, a gift store, bathrooms, and hosts telescope viewing sessions by amateur astronomy clubs. Check the center's website for evening sky viewing events at the center.

MaunaKea Visitors Center

MaunaKea Visitors Center

In the distance you can see the residential building for Telescope workers and construction personnel. Living at the 9000 altitude helps them deal with the summit's high altitude.

MaunaKea Visitors Center

Viewing the skies from a telescope at the visitor's center is far better than up at the summit of Mauna Kea because the air is so thin at the higher altitude that the light won't resolve properly in your retina. The optical telescopes at the summit capture the data digitally and don't rely on the human eye to "see" the skies.

Below is a video taken from the parking lot of the Mauna Kea Visitors Center

Mauna Kea Visitor Center

You can check on the weather on Mauna Kea and see the telescopes via CAMs realtime.

To learn more about the telescopes on the Island of Hawaii and their current activities and events visit each of the Telescope web sites:
Keck Observatory
Joint Astronomy Centre
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
Subaru Telescope
Gemini Observatory

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'Imiloa Astronomy Center and Planetarium

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is in Hilo on 9 acres above the University of Hawaii Hilo campus. It has the only 3D planetarium in the world as well as a huge number of interactive displays about the universe, Hawaii's telescope operations and discoveries, and Hawaiian history related to the stars and navigation. " 'Imiloa " is a Hawaiian word meaning seeker.

'Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo

The center has a cafe that serves breakfast and lunch and is open for dinner whenever there is an evening show.

'Imiloa cafe in Hilo

The lobby has a gift shop with books by local astronomers and astronomy related items.

'Imiloa gift shop in Hilo

'Imiloa has 40,000 square feet of planetarium and exhibition space which was funded primarily by NASA. The hands-on exhibits and movies are well produced and fun for kids and adults.

Imolia Astronomy displays in Hilo

Imiloa Astronomy Center displays

Imiloa Astronomy display

A mockup of the Gemini telescope control center gives you a good idea of all the tasks needed to control an optical telescope.

Below is a video tour of Imiloa Astronomy Center's exhibits.

Gemini control center in Hilo

The planetarium shows are held daily and on the weekends there are often special evening shows. The 3D planetarium shows are produced by wearing special glasses and not used for every show.

Planetarium entrance in Hilo

The shows are put on by local and visiting astronomers that explain their recent findings using the planetarium equipment to graphically show the part of space they are studying.

Inside the Planetarium in Hilo

Check the center's website for their current shows and times.

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Onizuka Space Center

Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka Space Center is located at the Kona airport. The center is an educational facility dedicated to the memory of Hawaii’s first astronaut who died on the Challenger Mission in 1986. The Onizuka Space Center has exhibits and videos about the history of space flight and living in space and is especially appealing to youngsters.

Onizuka Space Center

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Directions to Imiloa Astronomy Center:
Imiloa is located in Hilo above the University of Hawaii Hilo. From Komohana Street turn on to Nowelo and drive down the street to the Center on the left.

Imiloa is 126 miles from Kailua-Kona (2 hours, 30 minutes),
77 miles from the Waikoloa resort hotels (2 hours, 5 minutes), and
59 miles from Waimea (1 hour) via Route 19.

For more information visit the Imiloa website

Directions to Mauna Kea Visitors Center:
Mauna Kea Visitors Center can be reached from Saddle Road/Route 200. At an elevation of 6,600 ft (2,000 m), a paved road intersects with Saddle Road at Mile 28. The steep road goes up to the Visitor Information Station called the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy (about 20 minutes from Saddle Road). The distance from Hilo to the Visitor Center is 34 miles (55 km), with the average travel time being 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

For more information visit the Visitor Center website

Directions to Onizuka Space Center:
The Onizuka Space Center is located at Keahole-Kona International Airport. Parking is available at the airport.

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