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Mar 31 18

Hōkūle‘a Mahalo Hawai‘i Sail

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

The iconic Hawaiian double-hulled sailing canoe, Hōkūle’a, will be coming to Hilo on its Mahalo Hawai’i Sail and presenting a free public event (canoe tour and education expo) on Saturday, April 21st, from 9am – 5pm at the Wailoa Harbor.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) has embarked on a six-month statewide journey to express its mahalo to numerous segments of the communities throughout Hawai’i for their tremendous support of the three-year Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage from 2014 to 2017.  Another purpose of the Mahalo Hawai’i Sail is to reach out to thousands of schoolchildren across the state, offering canoe tours and hands-on educational activities that showcase ocean navigation through the lenses of science, math, culture and conservation.

The first half of the voyaging canoe’s statewide mission took place from August through October, 2017. On March 24 of this year, Hōkūle’a resumed its Mahalo Hawai’i Sail and departed O‘ahu (Sand Island) for Hawai’i Island, where it will be docked at various ports for two months.

“Planning and implementing this ambitious Mahalo Hawai’i Sail project is exciting and rewarding, and would not have been possible without the assistance of many people from different segments of our community,” said Kālepa Baybayan, ‘Imiloa’s Navigator-in-Residence and the project’s overall lead person for Hawai’i Island. “We are thankful for the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s support, for the time and commitment of everyone involved in the planning of this large scale project, and for sponsorships from ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, the County of Hawai’i, the Grand Naniloa Hotel, Friends of Hōkūle’a and Hawai‘iloa, Hawaiian Airlines and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.”

During each of its major port visits, crew members will engage with communities, schools and organizations through outreach events, service projects, crew presentations and canoe tours, with the mission of sharing wayfinding lore and lessons learned from the voyage.  In conjunction with the free canoe tours there will be an education expo where exhibitors will highlight related educational opportunities and environmental stewardship programs to “mālama honua,” or care for our planet. 

Participants of the education expo on April 21 at Wailoa Harbor include Blue Planet Foundation, Blue Zones Project, Hawaiʻi Community College, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, Kamehameha Schools, Ke Kula o Nawahiokalaniʻopuʻu, Ko Kula Kai- Nawahiokalaniʻopuʻu, Maunakea Astronomical Observatory Outreach Committee, Mokupapapa Discovery Center, Polynesian Voyaging Society, PUEO and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

For its Hawai’i Island itinerary, the canoe will first anchor at Kailua-Kona Pier on March 30 and 31 before setting sail to arrive in Hilo on Thursday, April 1.  It will be in Hilo until Tuesday, April 27 and depart for Miloli‘i for an overnight stop on Wednesday, April 28. The last port of call for Hōkūle’a will be Kawaihae Harbor on April 29, where free canoe tours and an education expo are scheduled for Saturday, May 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Mar 30 18

The Search for Near-Earth Objects from Hawai‘i

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

‘Imiloa presents Dr. Richard Wainscoat, Astronomer at University of Hawai’i, Mānoa
Date: Fri. April 20
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply)

The Earth is continuously being hit with asteroids and comets that crash down from outer space. The impact of a 20-meter diameter asteroid near Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 provided a graphic example of a “small” asteroid impact. Large object impact is rare, but has catastrophic consequences. Learn about Near-Earth Objects (NEO’s) and the potentially disastrous outcomes that occur once they reach Earth at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk with Dr. Richard Wainscoat, Astronomer at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, on Friday, April 20 at 7:00 pm.


Astronomers across the world are conducting searches for potentially hazardous objects that may hit Earth in the future. Much of the work is presently being conducted by astronomers in the United States, with Hawai‘i taking a leading role. Telescopes on three mountains in the state of Hawai‘i—Maunakea, Haleakalā and Maunaloa—are contributing significantly in the efforts to identify objects that may hit Earth within the next 100 years.


A major objective in this search is to identify large objects that could hit Earth so that  efforts that can be made to deflect these objects by changing their orbit.  Efforts are also being made to identify smaller objects immediately before they make impact, so that proper warning can be issued and appropriate steps can be taken to save lives. The telescopes being utilized in Hawai‘i for this project include Pan-STARRS1 and 2, and ATLAS on Haleakalā; Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope, NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and Subaru Telescope on Maunakea; and ATLAS on Maunaloa. This project is being funded by the NASA Near-Earth Object Observations Program.

Dr. Wainscoat will discuss the recent discoveries from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Haleakalā, including the “Halloween Asteroid,” which passed close to Earth on October 31, 2015, and `Oumuamua the first interstellar object which was discovered in October, 2017. The Hawaiian name `Oumuamua reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to us (‘ou means “reach out for” and mua, with the second mua placing emphasis, means “first, in advance of”). Dr. Wainscoat will share insight into these important astronomical discoveries made in Hawai‘i.

‘Oumuamua (artist’s impression) Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Dr. Wainscoat grew up in Australia, obtaining his PhD in Astronomy from the Australian National University. After working in California at the NASA Ames Research Center for 3 years, he moved to Hawai‘i. He now leads the search for Near-Earth Objects with the Pan-STARRS telescopes at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa. He recognizes that dark skies are essential for astronomy, and has worked hard to preserve the dark night sky over Hawai‘i’s observatories.

Hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy, ‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, with the audience able to view prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year. Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for ‘Imiloa members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.


Mar 27 18

ʻApelila (April) Sky Watch

by Imiloa Marketing

By Chad Kālepa Baybayan & Emily Peavy, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‛i

Spring Starline in the Hawaiian Star Compass


On March 20, the sun crossed north over the equator in an event called the Equinox, a juncture when daylight and nighttime are approximately equal in length, heralding the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The Hawaiian word associated with this season is Kupulau (Sprouting Leaf). Today’s column returns to learning the night sky through the eyes of oceanic voyagers by examining the second Hawaiian starline, Kaiwikuamoʻo, which stands out during spring and early summer.

As mentioned in past columns, starlines are collections of bright stars and constellations that line the night sky in a north-south direction. In the Hawaiian star chart, the four starlines are, Kekāomakaliʻi (The Bailer of Makaliʻi), Kaiwikuamoʻo (The Backbone), Mānaiakalani (The Heavenly Fishing Line) and Kalupeakawelo (The Kite of Kawelo). Because each is most prominent in the night sky during a different time of the year, they also serve as seasonal markers for winter, spring, summer, and fall.


In January’s column, we introduced the first starline, Kekāomakaliʻi, which is prominent during the winter season. The third starline, Manaiakalani, will be presented this summer and the fourth starline, Kalupeakawelo, will be featured this fall.

The easiest constellation to identify in the Kaiwikuamoʻo starline, is Nāhiku,“The Big Dipper,” rising in the direction Manu Koʻolau, northeast on our star compass. The seven stars of Nāhiku form the shape of a celestial ladle. Drawing an imaginary line from the two pointer stars in the scoop of the dipper to the horizon will lead you toward Hōkūpaʻa (Polaris), also known as “The North Star.” Hōkūpaʻa is positioned very near the north celestial pole so it seems to be motionless while other stars appear to rotate around it. Hōkūpaʻa is part of the constellation “The Little Dipper” which resembles a second smaller celestial ladle. These two buckets (Little and Big Dipper) are said to be pouring into each other.

If you follow the handle of Nāhiku eastward you arrive at the fourth brightest star in the night sky, Hōkūleʻa (Arcturus). Hōkūleʻa rises in the star compass direction ʻĀina Koʻolau (east-northeast), passing directly over Hawaiʻi Island, and is the zenith star (star at the highest point on the celestial sphere) for the Hawaiian Islands. Following Hōkūleʻa in the direction of Lā Malanai (southeast) on our star compass, brings you to Hikianalia (Spica), in the constellation Virgo. Hikianalia is actually comprised of two stars rather than one, a blue giant and a variable star, because the two stars orbit each other and are too close together to separate visually.

Continuing in a southward direction around the star compass, you will see a celestial quadrilateral shape, a box with a short and a wide end, known as Meʻe (Voice of Joy) to oceanic voyagers and Corvus (Latin for crow or raven) to astronomers. Taking a line through the center of Meʻe toward the southern horizon will lead you to a constellation held in special regard by Pacific navigators: Hānaiakamālama (Cared for by the Moon) also known as the Southern Cross, which rises around 9pm in April.

Navigators can use Hānaiakamālama to determine the direction of Hema, south on our star compass. This constellation is also important for establishing the latitude of the Hawaiian Islands. When Hānaiakamālama is in the upright position, at around 11 pm during April, you can measure the distance between its top star and bottom star and when you can establish the same distance equally between the bottom star and the horizon beneath it, you know you are at the latitude of Kahoʻolawe. At that point, simply turn your canoe downwind, and the wind will sail your canoe towards the Hawaiian Islands.

Special morning observations: 

Between 3am and 6am towards the south-eastern sky of April 2, Mars and Saturn will be going through a conjunction. A conjunction is when celestial objects appear to be very close together (within a few degrees) in our sky. A planet will frequently conjunct with celestial objects as well as other planets. The red dot of Mars will appear to be very close to the faint yellow dot of Saturn.


Every year in April, when Earth passes through Comet Thatcher’s dusty tail, a meteor shower, known as the April Lyrids, occurs. This shower is the oldest known shower ever recorded, as it was chronicled in the Zuo zhuan (ancient Chinese narrative history) in 678 B.C. Observers can enjoy watching this year’s Lyrid meteor shower from April 16 to April 25, but the best time to see the meteors will be just before sunrise on April 22. At its peak, you can expect to observe about 20 shooting stars per hour, or approximately 3 meteors a minute.


At 4:44am on the morning of April 29, Mercury will be rising and will be visible until the light of dawn obscures it.  On this day, Mercury will be at a unique position in its orbit, known as the Greatest Western Elongation, and is at its furthest position from the Sun in the Eastern sky.


April’s morning sky

Throughout April, sunrise occurs between 6 and 6:30 am. During these early morning hours the planets of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars will be high in the southern region of the sky. Sitting between the planets will be the beautiful bulge of the Milky Way Galaxy.


April’s night sky

During the early evening hours, the incredibly bright planet Venus will chase the sun into the horizon. Venus is the 3rd brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Full Moon. As it is usually seen either just after sunset or immediately before sun rise, Venus is variously referred to as the “evening star” or the “morning star.”


The recognizable shape of Kaheiheionākeiki (The Cat’s Cradle), also known as Orion the Hunter, will be preparing to set into the west. On a nice dark night, you will be able to see the blur of the Orion Nebula beneath the famous three stars that cut across Orion’s Belt. The Orion Nebula (M42) is the most famous stellar nursery in the sky.

Mar 14 18

‘Imiloa’s 2018 Merrie Monarch Cultural Enrichment Programs

by Imiloa Marketing

In celebration of the 55th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center will host three days of cultural enrichment programming, Wednesday, April 4 through Friday, April 6. This series is organized annually at ‘Imiloa to complement and honor Merrie Monarch’s major purpose: the perpetuation, preservation and promotion of the art of hula and Hawaiian culture through education.


Join us at ‘Imiloa and immerse yourself in the beautiful stories delivered through the art of hula and chant by the Hula Preservation Society and Hālau Hula I Ka Leo Ola O Na Mamo. Serenade your senses with live music by Ho‘ā and the keiki of Project Kuleana. Hear first hand experiences from crewmembers of Hōkūle‘a’s inaugural voyage  in 1976 to Tahiti, and so much more!  


The opening day of events at ‘Imiloa on Wednesday, April 4 at 10:00 a.m. showcases Kumu Puanani Alama, the gracious matriarch of the hula world. Kumu Alama began her life in hula at a young age and has never looked back! At 87-years old, she has surpassed seven decades of teaching, a record previously held by her sister, Leilani Alama (1925-2014). Join Hula Preservation Society for this special time with the last living judge from the very first Merrie Monarch Festival competition.


The afternoon session on April 4 at 1:00 p.m. will feature hula and mele by Hālau Hula I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo, Ke Kula o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u. They will share the mele lyrics ‘Ua Malu Kou Aupuni e ka Lani, ʻAʻohe Kupuʻeu, Nāna e ʻAʻe’ these lyrics honor Luka Keʻelikōlani, the great granddaughter of Kamehameha I who was a steadfast advocate of the Hawaiian language and who served as governor of Hawaiʻi island for nearly twenty years in the 19th century.  It is through hula, research and learning mele such as this from mentors that the students of Hālau I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo have been able to connect with their moʻolelo (story) to ensure these messages live on into perpetuity.


Hula Preservation Society brings together dancers from New York City’s famed Hawaiian Room to share their stories, on Thursday, April 5 at 10:00 a.m. From 1937-1966, hula and Hawaiian music were celebrated in New York City through this pioneering venue, the Hawaiian Room. Young Hawaiian talents brought their youthful spirits, energies and aloha to millions over the Room’s 30 years. Come meet these (now) elders who are still going strong in sharing their love of hula. Archival photos and clips from the documentary film “The Hawaiian Room” will be shared.


On Thursday, April 5 at 1:00 p.m. enjoy the afternoon talking story with members of the Hōkūle‘a Crew. This special panel presentation will feature participants who took part as crew and vital supporters of the 1976 voyage of the iconic Hawaiian double-hulled canoe, Hōkūleʻa, on its inaugural round trip voyage to Tahiti. The panel will be moderated by Captain Gordon Piʻianaia, the captain of the leg from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi and its successful and triumphant return to Hawaiʻi. Crew members will recall the challenges of organizing and launching this daunting project and the return of the modern era of deep sea voyaging and the rebirth of traditional oceanic wayfinding. It is a story that will be retold live through the first hand experiences of those who lived this part of Hawaii’s history.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) proudly sponsors a presentation on Hulathe traditions and innovations of hula, as well as share on the globalization and change that hula has experienced throughout the years both here in Hawaiʻi and throughout the world.  The Lālākea Foundation and Ka ʻAha Hula o Hālauaola will present a forum of discussion around these topics. This panel will be presented on Friday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m.


Culminating ‘Imiloa’s Merrie Monarch programming is a lively musical performance by Ho‘ā and the keiki of Project Kuleana,  beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, April 6. Hoʻā is comprised of Hilo’s own Kihei Nahale‘a, Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing and Sean Nāleimaile.  Hoʻāʻs passion is to “ignite” the desire and action to perpetuate and care for “welo kupuna”our linneal heritage as Hawaiian people, and in particular, Hawaiian music and all of its elements.  Featured with Ho‘ā will be keiki from Project Kuleana. Project Kuleana was created by the three men of Hoʻā. Project Kuleana aspires to increase the innate value of Hawaiian music and inspire people to reflect on one’s own kuleana through the performance.  Project Kuleana seeks to encourage people to re-discover, re-connect and re-instill what Hawaiian music and performers of Hawaiian music represent.

Pre-sale tickets for each Cultural Enrichment Program at ‘Imiloa are $10 ($8 for ‘Imiloa members.) Pre-sale tickets can be purchased at ‘Imiloa’s front desk, or over the phone by calling 808-932-8901. A limited supply of tickets will be available for purchase the day of each event for $15.

As an added bonus, those with paid admissions to the Merrie Monarch Cultural Enrichment presentations will have the opportunity watch a planetarium show on the same day at the special price of only $5 per person.  Proof of paid admission needs to be presented.

Feb 28 18


by Imiloa Marketing

New Horizons: NASA’s Epic Voyage of Exploration to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Continues!

Date: Tuesday, March 6
Presentation time: 12 noon
Where: ‘Imiloa’s Planetarium
Cost: Standard admission prices apply

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto and its moons at 31,000 miles per hour. That day some 1.7 billion mentions of New Horizons sped across the Internet and social media, evidence of worldwide interest in this first mission to the last planet of the classical solar system. Now, the epic voyage of exploration continues with a planned January 1st 2019 flyby of a mysterious and still more distant Kuiper Belt Object known as “MU69.” And astronomical observatories in Hawai‘i have played an important role in the success of the mission, with NASA and New Horizons researchers visiting many times, over many years, to study the outer edges of our solar system.


Now, on Tuesday, March 6th, students, teachers and the general public on Hawai‘i Island will have the opportunity to hear directly from key members of the New Horizons team in fast-paced multimedia presentations featuring the stunning images and science gathered during the Pluto flyby. HD video illuminates key mission milestones, including a preview of New Horizons’ next encounter – a flight past MU69, which promises to be the most distant and most unchanged solar system object ever explored! NASA hopes that the flyby will provide important new discoveries about the origin and evolution of the entire solar system.

On hand to share both the science and gripping, behind-the-scenes personal stories of the mission will be:

MARC BUIE, New Horizons Investigator, SwRI

Marc Buie is a New Horizons Investigator, currently working at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Pluto has been a major focus of Marc’s research since 1983, and he was a founding member of the so-called “Pluto Underground” that promoted America’s first mission to the 9th planet starting in 1989. Marc spent many years at the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was first discovered in 1930. More recently he spent ten years searching for a Kuiper Belt Object that New Horizons might fly on to after the Pluto encounter. Marc was the first to spot this elusive body in 2014, now known as “MU69,” using the Hubble Space Telescope, and has directed a large effort to understand this distant, cold and tiny world. He also has a project ( that is enlisting students to help measure the sizes of other objects in the Kuiper Belt. Says Marc, “I may be thin-blooded transplant from Louisiana but my imagination always runs away with me when thinking about the super cold and complex environments on Pluto and elsewhere in the Kuiper Belt.”


ALICE BOWMAN, Mission Operations Manager, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Alice Bowman works for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where she is the Mission Operations Manager—or “MOM”—for NASA’s New Horizons mission, which made the first visit to Pluto in 2015. She leads the team that controls the spacecraft, now about 3.7 billion miles from Earth. Her love of space exploration started as a child saving newspaper clippings of the Moon landing and other planetary visits. After studying physics and chemistry at the University of Virginia, Alice joined the California Institute of Technology, where she developed tumor-targeting micelles, which have successfully been used to treat cancer and fungal infections; programmed computer simulations to study how explosions affect soil compression and wave propagation; and developed silicon-based semiconductors that detected infrared waves emitted by cruise missiles and stars. From there, Bowman was a satellite technical advisor to U.S. Space Command, advising the agency on various infrared-signature detections. She joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in 1997, and has served on various spacecraft teams such as the Midcourse Space Experiment and CONTOUR, in addition to New Horizons. In her time away from work, she and her husband lead a community jam session twice a month and play in a bluegrass band.


VERONICA BRAY, Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Dr. Veronica Bray started her research at University College London, measuring lava flows on Venus. She completed her PhD at Imperial College London studying comet impacts into Europa using both observations and computer modeling. She is now a science team member on a number of missions to rocky and icy worlds all over the solar system: LROC (the Moon), HiRISE (Mars), Cassini (Saturn system) and New Horizons. In addition to her specialty of impact cratering, Veronica brings expertise in “comparative planetology” to the Geology and Geophysics section of the New Horizons team. Veronica continues the theme of hard-hitting, fast moving projectiles in her hobbies: she is an archer and metal/rock drummer! She is a targeting specialist for HiRISE on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and is also an adjunct lecturer of astrobiology.


RANDY MONROE, Middle School Science Teacher and son of Charlene, after whom Pluto’s giant moon Charon is named.
James R. (Randy) Monroe has spent his science teaching career embedding and integrating cutting-edge science technologies and techniques into processes and topics covered through a standardized Earth, Life and Physical Science curriculum. Monroe has a BA from California State University East Bay (CSUEB), a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from CSUEB, and a Master’s of Science in Technology Leadership. He served on the Contra Costa Math & Science Teachers Association Board, and recently on the committee for the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) developing the new test for prospective teachers in Earth & Planetary Science. Employed by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District since 2001, he teaches middle school Earth, Life & Physical Science at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, California. He is a longtime member of the New Horizon Education Team. Monroe’s step-father, James Christy, discovered Pluto’s largest moon Charon in 1978, named after Monroe’s mother Charlene. Through his fascination with hydrothermal vent ecology, Monroe became adjunct faculty at the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in the Microbial Ecology Program, and has also worked through Industrial Initiatives for Science and Math Educators (IISME) at Lockheed Martin as a Systems Engineer in missile defense studying infrared technologies.


KERRI BEISSER, Program Manager for the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  

Kerri Beisser, is a member of the Lab’s Senior Professional Staff. Before coming to APL, Ms. Beisser worked for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, where she was the Project Manager for national programs for NASA’s Cassini, STARDUST and Galileo missions. She also worked for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Here she conducted student and teacher training in the history of the space program and in the fields of aerospace, engineering, technology, and space station/space shuttle activities. She also led corporate training programs and special events for Space Camp, such as training the cast of the movie Apollo 13. Since joining APL in 1999 in the Space Department, Ms. Beisser has managed the education and public outreach programs and the engagement and communications program for NASA missions from the Sun to Pluto and beyond. These have included the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission, the NASA “Vision Mission” Innovative Interstellar Probe, the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission, for the Solar-TErrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission (RBSP). Currently, she is managing the engagement and communications programs for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, and the Parker Solar Probe Plus mission, slated to launch in July 2018.

Come early to explore ‘Imiloa’s exhibits! The speakers will be in the exhibit hall at 11am prior to their presentation.

Feb 28 18

Astronomy FutureCast

by Imiloa Marketing

The diversity of modern day astronomy research is astonishing. Fueled by exponential advancements in technologyour understanding of everything from the Sun, planets and the Big Bangto the fundamental nature of space itself is growing rapidly. It is likely that by the turn of this century we will have substantially rewritten our understanding of the universe and our place in it. Learn about future astronomical discoveries at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk with Dr. Doug Simons, Director at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Friday, March 16 at 7:00 pm.

Instead of highlighting past research, Dr. Simons will focus on anticipated future discoveries, many linked to observations from Maunakea. Dr. Simons will explain how astronomy is both driven and limited by technology. We can utilize what we know about technology now to gain insight into anticipated discoveries in the future. By predicting the availability of these game-changing technologies that will exist in the future, it gives us the ability to dive deeper into our existence than we ever thought possible. Although forecasting future discoveries in detail can be fraught with uncertainties, important developments over the next decade in astronomy are visibly on the horizon. Even within the next decade, major advancements in understanding dark matter and energy, black holes, the first stars in the universe, whether or not we live in a multiverse, whether life exists beyond Earth, or even “new physics”, are all speeding our way.


“Context is crucial for our species. Knowing how we ‘fit’ into a bigger picture has been a driving characteristic of humanity for millennia,” says Dr. Simons. “Astronomy provides us with many of the pieces needed to fill in that bigger picture. The discoveries lining up along the road ahead in astronomy are simply stunning.”


Dr. Simons received his Bachelor of Science degree in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in 1985 and received his Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i in 1990. Before working as a staff astronomer at CFHT for four years, he worked at the Gemini 8 Meter Telescope Project as the Systems Scientist.  He then became the Associate Director for Development at Gemini’s instrumentation program for many years before becoming the Gemini Observatory Director from 2006-2011. He returned to CFHT in 2012 where he now serves as Executive Director. Dr. Simons serves on the Mauna Kea Management Board, the Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce Board and the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training Board. He is an avid supporter of education and community outreach and has helped develop numerous programs including EnVision Maunakea, Maunakea Fund and Maunakea Scholars.


Hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy, ‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, with the audience able to view prominent constellations and stars visible during this time of year. Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. General admission tickets are $10, $8 for ‘Imiloa members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.


Feb 25 18

Malaki (March) 2018 Sky Watch

by Imiloa Marketing

By Chad Kālepa Baybayan & Emily Peavy, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‛i

Using the stars to make landfall:

This month’s column focuses on the final skill set essential for celestial navigation.  After (1) orienting the canoe and (2) determining the canoe’s position at sea, the final challenge becomes (3) making landfall.

In last month’s column I wrote about two ways of determining latitude, measuring the altitude of Hokupa‘a (North Star) and dead reckoning, an algebraic formula for estimating distance (speed x time = distance traveled).  As you approach the equator you will lose sight of Hokupa‘a, as it will begin to get obscured by the clouds, and once you sail into the southern hemisphere, it will sink below the northern horizon and no longer be visible.


Two good stars to use to determine latitude in the southern hemisphere are found in the bucket of the Little Dipper: Hōkūmau (Pherkad) and Holopuni (Kochab).  These stars have altitudes of 16˚ and 18˚ when they are in meridian (above the north celestial pole) at the equator. As you sail south in the southern hemisphere, the northern hemisphere stars get lower to the horizon and the southern hemisphere stars climb higher into the night sky. To determine southern latitude you measure the altitude of the 16˚ and 18˚ stars when they are in meridian, using the hand calibration technique described in last month’s column. If you measure the 16˚ star at 14˚ altitude, and the 18˚ star at 16˚ altitude then:  16˚-14˚ = 2˚ latitude, and 18˚-16˚ = 2˚ latitude.

You can continue this process of subtracting altitude as you sail in a southerly direction on your star compass until you get to a measurement equivalent to 14˚ south, the limit to the range for using these two stars to measure latitude.  At this point these stars are so close to the northern horizon that they become difficult to see.  


About the time you lose sight of Hōkūmau (16˚) and Holopuni (18˚) you should be crossing the northern boundary of the Tuamotu Archipelago, a band of 75 coral atolls spanning 900 miles.  This is an exciting milestone for voyagers in the South Pacific.  For several days prior to arriving at the edge of the northern boundary of the Tuamotu’s, you should have been glimpsing the Manu-O-Kū (white tern), a definite sign that you are approaching land.  The sight of flotsam–natural terrestrial debris such as coconuts, branches, and leaves—and the appearance of the Noio (black noddy) bird), are other clues that landfall is only hours away.


Large anvil-shaped thunderclouds sometimes form over the interior lagoons of coral atolls.  The bottoms of these clouds absorb the deep blue hue of the lagoons, and a trained eye can spot their characteristic blue tint.  As you sail leeward of the atolls, before the sight of land appears, you should notice a quieting of the seas and a calming of the winds.  As you continue your approach and experience a large wave wetting the bow of your canoe, you will know when the bow dries that you within 2 miles of sighting land.  


Once the navigator finds the Tuamotu Archipelago, the navigation for that particular leg is over, and Tahiti is just 240 nautical miles away, or a short oceanic crossing of a day and a half, on a heading of Manu Kona, or southwest, on the star compass.


Special Events in March

March 20 marks the Vernal or Spring Equinox when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west. In the Northern Hemisphere this is celebrated as the first day of spring. Despite the name “equinox,” however, this day does not actually have equal parts of daytime and nighttime. In Honolulu, March 15 will actually be the day closest to having equal lengths of day and night, with the daytime lasting 12 hours and 1 minute.


The month of March will have 2 full moons, the first one occurring on March 1 and the second on March 31.   When this occurs the second full moon is often referred to as a “Blue Moon,” though the moon’s color does not change.


On the evening of March 15, Mercury will be at a unique position in its orbit known as Greatest Eastern Elongation. From Earth’s perspective, this is Mercury’s farthest position from the Sun and the best night to view the planet.  Note, however, that Mercury will still be setting early in the evening and will disappear from our sky by 7:45 pm HST.


March Night Sky

Rising out of Manu Ko‘olau, the northeastern horizon, look for the recognizable shape of Nāhiku, famously known as the Big Dipper.  This constellation of 7 stars is a familiar sight across the Northern Hemisphere.  The 2 bright stars in the front scoop of the dipper point directly to Hōkūpa‘a (North Star).   As a fun challenge, look at the 2nd star from the end of the handle of the dipper.  If you have good vision you may be able to pick out two, or even three stars nearby.  The brightest of these is Mizar, next to it will be the fainter star Alcor, and between Mizar and Alcor, those with truly excellent eyesight can make out the faint Ludwig’s Star.  In earlier times these stars were commonly used as a vision test.


As we enter the spring months, the familiar shape of Kaheiheionakeiki (Orion) will be high in our western sky during the early evening. This shape is quite famous around the world as it is composed of bright stars and lies on the celestial equator, meaning that no matter where you are on Earth, it will be visible in the sky.  

To the north and west of Kaheihieonakeiki will be the distinctive star cluster of Makali‘i, also well known as the Pleiades or “Seven Sisters.”  This is one of the closest star clusters to our solar system at only 444 light years away.


March Morning Sky

Throughout March, sunrise occurs around 6:30 am, giving early risers a beautiful view of the sky.  During these early morning hours, the planets of Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn will be rising in the south east, lined up nicely in front of the central bulge of the Milky Way.

Feb 5 18

‘Imiloa Celebrates 12 Years with a FREE Birthday Pā‘ina

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

Join us at ‘Imiloa for a fun, free family day celebrating Hawaiian Language

Hilo, Hawai‘i – ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center invites the community to come help us celebrate our FREE 12th Birthday Pā‘ina on Sunday, February 25, from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.  This year’s theme, Celebrating Ōlelo Hawai‘i, will feature exciting outdoor and indoor activities for the entire ‘ohana centered around the theme of Hawaiian Language. ‘Imiloa is thrilled to team up with organizations from across the island to share Hawaiian language and practices of Hawaiian culture that thrive in our community.


‘Imiloa is very grateful to KTA Super Stores for sponsoring this event and allowing the center to be open free of charge for this fun filled day!


Birthday offerings will include free birthday cake to the first 1,000 visitors, scavenger hunt, hula lessons, games, native garden activity, engaging activities in ‘Imiloa’s exhibit hall, special shows for family and kids in the planetarium, science explorations, various displays and activities hosted by community partners, such as UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language, Maunakea Observatories and much more! KTA Super Stores will offer a food tent with ‘ono food and beverage options available for purchase throughout the day. It is ‘Imiloa’s hope that everyone who visits the Center during this special Birthday Pā‘ina will leave having learned new Hawaiian words, the names of native plants and more about Hawai‘i’s rich culture.


“As a bilingual center, ‘Imiloa strives to share our ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian Language) with both visitors and locals alike through our exhibits, interactions and programming. We’re thrilled to observe our 12th year of exploration at ‘Imiloa with the theme of ‘Celebrating ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i’ — which is dedicated to recognizing and honoring Hawaiian Language,” says Ka’iu Kimura, Executive Director of ‘Imiloa. “‘We send our warmest mahalo to KTA Super Stores for sponsoring ‘Imiloa’s 12th Birthday Celebration. KTA Super Stores continues to play a significant role in supporting ‘Imiloa’s cultural and educational outreach, and has been a huge supporter from the very beginning.”


“Happy 12th Birthday ´Imiloa Astronomy Center!  Twelve years of ground-breaking, cutting-edge discoveries have enriched our Hawai´i island community and inspired generations of explorers and innovators,” says Toby Taniguchi, President and Chief Operating Officer of KTA Super Stores.  “KTA Super Stores is delighted to support such an advanced and state-of-the-art center focused on life-long learning.”


As a special birthday gift to the community and for one day only, ‘Imiloa will be offering $10 off all levels of membership, both for new and renewing members. This will be reserved for memberships purchased on-site on Sunday, February 25. Current members are welcome to take advantage of this discount and renew their memberships early.


For details on ‘Imiloa’s 12th Birthday Pā‘ina, visit and follow ‘Imiloa’s Facebook page.


About ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center:

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a world-class center for informal science education located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. Its centerpiece is a 12,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall, showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration guided by the light of the stars. The visitor experience is amplified with programming using ‘Imiloa’s full-dome planetarium and 9 acres of native landscape gardens. The center welcomes approximately 100,000 visitors each year, including 10,000+ schoolchildren on guided field trips and other educational programs. ‘Imiloa is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off of Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, visit or call 808- 932-8901.

Jan 30 18

$200,000 Gift to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center Honors Patricia Ann Weber Lee

by Imiloa Marketing

The prominent native garden in front of the restaurant at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center has been named in memory of Patricia Ann Weber Lee through a $200,000 gift made by her husband, Francis Kainoa Lee, and their sons, Kainoa Christopher Lee and Keali‛iaea Kenneth Lee on September 20, 2017.  With this generous gift, ‘Imiloa is launching a campaign to fund the creation of an outdoor “classroom” to educate visitors about the natural and cultural history of the unique ecosystem represented by this garden.


The Patricia Ann Weber Lee Kῑpuka Garden is located in front of ‘Imiloa’s Sky Garden Restaurant, a unique setting which provides an unrivaled view of Hilo Bay and the Hāmākua Coastline.  The site features an oasis of native plants retained during the center’s 2004-2006 construction–thus the name “kīpuka.”  The garden is filled with 50-100 year old hala and ‘ohi‘a trees which grew on top of the 1881 lava flow that covered the Mokaulele region of Hilo, famed in legends and chants for its multicolored ‘ohi‘a lehua blossoms.  Beneath the garden lies its most dramatic feature, a partially collapsed lava tube. 

‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka‘iu Kimura comments, “What a privilege for ‘Imiloa to receive this generous gift in honor of Pat Lee, remembered by so many of us on the Big Island as our ‘Aunty Pat.’  We look forward to using the Lee family gift to begin transforming our native landscape gardens into an outdoor extension of our exhibit hall, a vision we’ve long aimed to fulfill.”


Patricia Ann Weber Lee (1946-2016) was born and raised in Philipsburg, NJ.  She graduated from Juniata College in Pennsylvania, then traveled to Hawai‛i in 1969 in preparation to join the newly established Peace Corps.  She became captivated by Hawai‛i and its unique culture and landscape, and ended up deciding to remain here, working at various jobs on O‘ahu, including serving as a dorm parent at Kamehameha Schools, Kapālama campus. 


In 1974, she married Francis Kainoa Lee, a native of Hilo. In 1986 Pat and Kainoa settled in Waimea on Hawai‛i Island, where she began a 20+year career with Parker Ranch, gave birth to two sons in Honolulu, taught Sunday School, and pursued her passion for gardening.  It was Pat who was responsible for encouraging Kainoa, an avid paddler, to attend an early organizational meeting for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which ultimately led to his participation as a crew member on the first historic voyage of the iconic sailing canoe, Hōkūle‛a in 1976.  Kainoa Lee would sail a total of 4 voyages between 1976 and 1995.  In May 2017, as the Hōkūle‛a’s 3-year Worldwide Voyage was coming to an end, he traveled to Tahiti, where he was honored, along with fellow crew members from the original 1976 voyage.


‘Imiloa’s eventual vision for the Patricia Ann Weber Lee Kῑpuka Garden is to construct walkways and steps leading down to a lava-paved education terrace where visitors will be able to look into the lava tube and learn about the cultural and natural history of the kῑpuka and the plant communities that inhabit or survive lava events.  A landscape plan for the enhancement of the garden has been commissioned from Randall Monaghan, the landscape architect responsible for the original design of ‘Imiloa’s 5 acres of native gardens, featuring one of Hawai‘i’s largest collections of endemic, indigenous, and Polynesian-introduced plants.  The estimated cost for construction is $500,000 and includes communications infrastructure to provide digital support for the outdoor learning station.


To augment the Lee Family gift and help complete the educational vision for ‘Imiloa’s kῑpuka garden, please consider a tax-deductible contribution to ‘Imiloa through the University of Hawai‘i Foundation at


For more information, contact Margaret Shiba, Director of Institutional Advancement, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center at 808.932.8921 or


The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.


Jan 28 18

Pepeluali (February) Sky Watch

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

By Chad Kālepa Baybayan & Emily Peavy, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‛i

To navigate the seas using only the stars and other clues from nature, one needs to learn three essential functions: (1) orienting the canoe, (2) determining the canoe’s position at sea, and (3) making landfall.


In previous articles, we have taken readers on a wayfinding journey, starting off with using the Hawaiian star compass to orient the canoe. To recap, unlike the conventional magnetic compass, the star compass serves as a conceptual framework for the navigator.  By locating the sun, moon, stars, wind, and swells along the canoe’s perimeter as bearing points on the star compass, the navigator derives directional clues which orient the canoe to the horizon. Once determined, the navigator needs to commit the information to memory for the duration of the voyage since the star compass is non-magnetic; it is, rather, a mental device that orients and determines direction for a canoe at sea. Suffice it to say, wayfinding is a cerebral process that engages the intellectual capacity of the navigator.


For this column, we will address the second skill set, determining the position of a canoe at sea. The route between Hawaiʻi and Tahiti offers the best example for explaining how position can be determined. Tahiti is approximately 2,250 nautical miles from Hilo and lies in the direction of Nāleo Malanai, south-southeast on our star compass. The general heading to Tahiti lies in a north-south direction and position can be determined based upon nautical miles or degrees of latitude traveled.


The process for determining nautical miles traveled is called dead reckoning and can be expressed as an algebraic equation: S (speed) x T (time) = D (distance). Thus, a canoe traveling at 5 knots (speed) for 12 hours (time) would have traveled 60 nautical miles. On board Hōkūleʻa, speed is determined by counting timing marks (bubbles or objects on the water) as they float from the front ʻiako (cross piece) to the back ʻiako, a distance of 42.2 feet. The navigator needs to memorize a timing cadence (“one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand,” etc.) so that he/she can be accurate in measuring a timing mark.


A table is then created to allow the crew to compute speed quickly: 3 seconds = 8.5 knots; 4 seconds = 6.5 knots; 5 seconds = 5 knots; 6 seconds = 4 knots. The navigator estimates speed by dividing the number 25 by the amount of seconds it takes a timing mark to float 42.2 feet, front ʻiako to back ʻiako. For example, 25 divided by 5 seconds = 5 knots of speed. The navigator checks the speed throughout the day and computes the distance traveled at the end of a 12-hour cycle, sunrise or sunset. This process is repeated and recorded for the entire length of the journey until landfall is made.


The other way to determine latitude is through various techniques involving the measurement of stars when they are at meridian, the highest altitude that a star reaches as it crosses from Hikina (East) to Komohana (West).  One technique is using your hands; palms facing out or in. When using palms facing out, the thumb rests on the horizon and the index finger above it. You should be able to measure an altitude of about 20˚ degrees.  With the palms facing in technique, the lower straight line of the hand rests along the horizon and the thumb extended above it. You should be able to measure an altitude of 10˚ degrees.









The latitude between Hawaiʻi and the equator can be computed by estimating the altitude of Hōkūpa‘a (Fixed Star), also widely known as “the North Star” or Polaris, which is positioned close to celestial ‘Ākau (North). In Hawaiʻi, by using the palms out position, Hōkūpa‘a should be one-hand span, 20˚ degrees, above the horizon . If measuring Hōkūpa‘a at 10˚ degrees altitude, one should be at 10˚ degrees north latitude. However, as one approaches the equator, clouds on the horizon will obscure Hōkūpa‘a. It will also not be visible in the sky south of the equator. In both of these situations, other stars will need to be used.  It is important to note that varying human hand sizes, will affect the determination of altitude.  Wayfinding is an approximation using visual clues and human senses.  Try finding Hōkūpa‘a tonight and measuring its altitude using your palm out position; depending on the size of your hand, you should get a measurement of one-hand span above the horizon.

The third skill set (making landfall) will be addressed in next month’s column.

February Night Sky
Before introducing the February sky, it is noteworthy to highlight an exciting event in the early morning of Wednesday, January 31st. That day will mark the second full moon of the month, which is often referred to as a “blue moon.” The moon will also happen to be in a unique position on its orbit known as perigee, where it is closest to Earth. When the moon is full at the same time it’s at perigee we often refer to it as a “supermoon”.  


Additionally, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 31st, the moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow in a lunar eclipse, often called a “blood moon”.  So, be on the lookout for a “super-blue-blood moon” from the evening of January 30th to the early morning of January 31st.  In Hawai‘i, the eclipse will start around 2 am. As the moon starts to get redder, totality will begin just before 3 am with maximum eclipse occuring at 3:30 am. The total eclipse will end at 4 am and the moon will be completely out of the Earth’s shadow by 5 am.


As aforementioned, Hōkūpa‘a (the North Star) is famous across the northern hemisphere; many children in scouting organizations are taught how to find it in the sky using the Big Dipper. However, there is a common misconception that it is the brightest star in sky. There are actually about forty-seven brighter stars in the whole night sky. The significance of Hōkūpa‘a is that it is on the rotational axis of the Earth, which means the star will always appear in exact North while you are in the Northern hemisphere. Regardless of seasons, the star remains in the same position, with the rest of the stars and celestial objects moving around it. Hence the name Hōkūpa‘a, meaning “Fixed Star” or “Stuck Star”.

Throughout February, the brightest star,  A‘ā (Burning Brightly), also known as Sirius or “the Dog Star”, will be visible in the early evening. This super bright star will be rising in Manu Malanai, the South East horizon, in the early evening. The second brightest star, Keali‘iokonaikaewa (The Chief of the Southern Heavens) also known as Canopus, will also be visible near Hema (South). These two bright stars form the handle of the starline Kekāomakali‘i (The Bailer of Makali‘i). Just as a bailer for a canoe scoops out water, this bailer scoops up the stars from Hikina(East) and pours them out into Komohana (West).

In particular the bailer is scooping up the bright shape of Kaheiheionākeiki (The Cats Cradle of the Children) also known as Orion. Beneath the famous three stars (known as the Orion’s Belt) that cut through the middle of Kaheiheionākeiki lies the gray fuzziness of M42, the Orion Nebula, arguably the most famous stellar nursery in the sky.

Setting in the western sky will be the “W” shape of  ‘Iwakeli‘i (Chief Frigate Bird), also known as Cassiopeia. Just beneath ‘Iwakei‘i will be the faint Andromeda galaxy. To the naked eye, the galaxy appears to be a small, faint, blurry smudge in the night sky. About 2.5 million light years away from Earth, Andromeda is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way.


Early Morning Observations:
Throughout February, sunrise occurs near 7 am, giving early risers a beautiful view of the sky. During these early morning hours the planets of Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn will line up in the south east, in front of the Milky Way bulge.