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Jul 21 16

National Geographic’s Asteroid: Mission Extreme Coming to ‘Imiloa in September

by Brea Aamoth

‘Imiloa Introduces Thrilling New Planetarium Show in September

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is excited to announce the introduction of a thrilling new planetarium show, Asteroid: Mission Extreme in September. Presented by National Geographic, Asteroid: Mission Extreme immerses audiences in 3D, full-dome surround sound and takes them on an epic journey to discover how asteroids are both a danger and an opportunity. The danger lies in the possibility of a cataclysmic collision with Earth; the opportunity is the fascinating possibility that asteroids could be stepping-stones to other worlds – veritable way stations in space that could enable us to cross the Solar System.


As with any venture into outer space, the challenges involved with making this idea a reality are enormous; however, a mission this extreme could ultimately teach us how to protect our planet and successfully inhabit other worlds.


Asteroid: Mission Extreme will be presented at 2:00 p.m. daily in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium on Tuesday – Sunday throughout the month of September. Tickets will be available for purchase at ‘Imiloa’s front desk, or over the phone at 808-932-8901.


‘Imiloa members are invited to view this show early during a special Member Preview and appreciation night on August 25. Become a member today to participate in this special preview event. For more information on membership, email or call 808-932-8901.


Asteroid: Mission Extreme is produced by National Geographic and Sky-Skan, and narrated by Sigourney Weaver. This 25-minute show is suitable for general audiences and school groups.

Jun 30 16

‘Imiloa’s Debut on the East Coast: A Wrap Up

by Margaret Shiba

As we’ve been reporting, ‘Imiloa made its debut on a national stage in late May and early June! Following the itinerary on the East Coast of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s iconic sailing canoe, Hōkūle‘a, we sent an outreach team to Washington, D.C. and New York City for 18 days (May 26-June 12) to share ‘Imiloa’s unique brand of culture-based science programming with new audiences far from home.

Here are some statistics that show what we accomplished:

•   1,600 participants directly engaged in programming about Polynesian wayfinding, including training on the Hawaiian Star Compass and navigational starlines

•   Perspectives exchanged with 200 colleagues at various roundtables and invited gatherings, including the Indigenous Worldviews in Informal Science Education (IWISE) workshop hosted by ‘Imiloa in Washington, D.C.

•   Hundreds of others reached indirectly through distribution of our educational handout on The Art and Science of Oceanic Wayfinding” 

•   Collaborations launched with seven leading science centers and educational institutions, from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (in both Washington, DC and New York City) and the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum, to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, the Hayden Planetarium, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Lower Eastside Girls Club.

‘Imiloa’s team was made up of Celeste Manuia Ha’o, Education Outreach Coordinator; Mino’aka Macanas, Fiscal Associate/Bookkeeper; and Margaret Shiba, Director of Institutional Advancement. The charge we received from ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka’iu Kimura was (1) to offer programmatic support to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s historic Worldwide Voyage, (2) to explore future collaboration between ‘Imiloa and peer science centers on the mainland, and (3) to facilitate professional development opportunities for ‘Imiloa staff with local counterparts.


Our East Coast trip gave us our first ever opportunity to test out some of the same curriculum and tools we use with our Hawai‘i-based MANU ‘Imiloa program with participants far from our shores! MANU ‘Imiloa is our new outreach program which uses the story of the Hōkūle‘a and the theme of Polynesian voyaging to teach science and math, while inspiring K-12 students to consider majors and careers in STEM disciplines.

What did we learn?

•   Just as ‘Imiloa uses wayfinding as a point of access for teaching science and math, other programs address similar goals through different frameworks.

Case in point: the impressive Billion Oyster Project at the Harbor School on NYC’s Governors Island challenges high school students to figure out how to restore a sustainable oyster population in New York Harbor and reconnect New Yorkers to the ocean!



•   ‘Imiloa may only be ten years old, but educators at much older and better established museums look to us for expertise when asking for advice on how to introduce authentic indigenous voices into their exhibits and programs!



•   Young people like the inner city students at NYC’s Lower Eastside Girls Club may not have many opportunities to see the live night sky up close and personal (though they do have an amazing in-house planetarium!), but the theme of navigation resonates deeply when they are invited to share stories of personal influences and career aspirations!




•   Seasoned museum educators can turn into kids when playing with creative exhibits like those at NYC’s amazing Museum of Mathematics!



•   At 425 seats, the imposing Hayden Planetarium is nearly four times larger than the ‘Imiloa dome, but inspired presenters like ‘Imiloa’s Celeste Ha’o and Kālepa Baybayan were not only able to ‘sell out’ the planetarium, they turned the space into an intimate living room with a live, interactive presentation on the Hawaiian night sky and wayfinding skills!




•   The zodiac constellations decorating the massive cathedral-like ceiling in Grand Central Terminal are laid out in a reverse image of the real night sky…perhaps intended to be viewed from a divine, rather than a human, perspective!






•   And of course we also learned that downtime in New York City was the perfect opportunity to taste a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli, enjoy brunch at Sarabeth’s, or take in views from the top of the Empire State Building!

Empire State

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this success possible, including the Ama OluKai Foundation which provided financial support to partially underwrite our trip,  the science centers which opened their space, shared their equipment, and collaborated with us, and our partners at the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Hālāwai. Thanks also to the farflung ‘Imiloa members and Hawaii folks who sought us out, attended our programs, and even provided greatly appreciated home hospitality.

Our trip generated lots of ideas for future programming, and we hope to be back someday soon.

For more information on our programming or to share ideas and support our future outreach, please contact: Margaret Shiba, Director of Institutional Advancement or call 808.932.8921.

Jun 28 16

How Old Would You Be if You Lived on Mars?

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

‘Imiloa enjoyed taking part in KTA’s centennial celebration at their Puainako location in June by joining in on their “Keiki Day” and “Look to the Future” day. Punawai Rice taught KTA shoppers of all ages how to figure out what their age would be if they lived on Mars! Watch the video to find out about Martian years, and get an insight to the similarities between Mars and Maunakea! A big mahalo to KTA Superstores for making ‘Imiloa special every day!

View the table below to find out your Martian age!

Jun 28 16

July Maunakea Skies Talk: The Coolest Members of the Family

by Brea Aamoth


‘Imiloa Presents Dr. Carlos Alvarez of W. M. Keck Observatory

Date: Friday, July 15
Time: 7pm
Cost: $10, $8 for members

Sub-stellar objects, commonly called brown dwarfs, are a class of celestial bodies that haven’t accumulated enough mass during their infancy to start ignition as a star. Often unfairly referred to as “failed stars,” these extraordinary objects are self-sustained by exotic physical processes in their core. Join us to learn more about the “least massive and coolest members” of the Galaxy at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk on July 15 at 7:00 p.m. presented by Dr. Carlos Alvarez, Support Astronomer at W. M. Keck Observatory.

Since the first detection of sub-stellar objects in the Pleiades cluster nearly 20 years ago, researchers have developed complex numerical models to help us understand how the interiors of these cool objects work and how the atmospheric features are produced. Dr. Alvarez will showcase the observations astronomers conduct to validate these models, and demonstrate how the outcome of some of these observations challenge predictions made by the models. Although important progress has been made in recent years to understand these cool and low mass objects, there are still unsolved mysteries, as this talk will examine.

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech: Image represents an artist’s view of a sub-stellar object

Dr. Alvarez received his PhD from the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) with a Thesis on “Outflows from Massive Young Stellar Objects.” He has been working as a Support Astronomer with the W. M. Keck Observatory since September 2015. During his professional career he has contributed to scientific publications on subjects ranging from massive star formations to active galactic nuclei, sub-stellar objects, comets and asteroids.

‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy. The audiences can 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 members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Member Level Discounts: $8 for Kupuna, Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.



Jun 20 16

Mālama Honua My Voyage App for Keiki

by Brea Aamoth

We are excited to share news about a new iPad app for keiki that was created by the Ho’omalamalama Foundation in collaboration with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Malama Honua Public Charter School. Malama Honua My Voyage is an interactive video app that introduces children ages 5-8 to Polynesian Voyaging and the values of Mālama Honua. In this first “appisode” the character Uncle Billy leads the children on a huaka’i – an excursion – to learn how the Polynesians used natural materials and clues from nature to build a vessel that could sail around the world.

Users of this interactive iPad app tag along as Keola and Emma visit cultural experts from the ocean to the mountains.  Encouraged by their animated guide, Manu, they gather materials for their own canoe and take the first steps toward becoming a junior navigator. They learn to spot clues, solve problems, take risks, and chart a course for success in their own lives, and the app culminates with a lively musical recap aboard a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe.

Mālama Honua “Appisode” Trailer

Jun 15 16

Join us for June’s ‘Imiakea Series: ‘O Hānau Ka Pō Iā Luna: A Presentation on Hawaiian Worldviews and Relationship to Maunakea

by Brea Aamoth

Date: Wed. June 29
Time: 5:30pm – 7:30pm (doors open at 5:15pm)
Location: ‘Imiloa’s Moanahōkū Hall
Cost: Free

‘O Hānau Ka Pō Iā Luna: A Presentation on Hawaiian Worldviews and Relationship to Maunakea

Join us for the third event in our ‘Imiākea series, which is aimed at expanding our understanding of all that Maunakea represents. This month’s event features ‘O Hānau Ka Pō Iā Luna, a chant that honors the birth of Kamehameha III and traces his lineage to Hawai‘i Island’s natural landscape. A section of this chant describes the birth of a mauna (mountain) of “Kea,” which many Hawaiian scholars and practitioners have associated with the creation of Maunakea on the island of Hawai‘i.


Join Ku‘uipo Freitas and Ku‘ulei Kanahele on Wednesday, June 29 at 5:30 p.m. for a presentation on native Hawaiians’ relationship to Maunakea, and what role their worldview is playing in the modern movement of protest against development on Maunakea. This free community event is located in our Moanahōkū Hall.


For more information on June’s ʻImiākea series, contact ‘Imiloa’s front desk at 808-932-8901.




May 26 16

The First Steps Towards Space Settlements: Robotically Constructed Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing Pads

by Brea Aamoth

‘Imiloa Presents Rodrigo Romo PISCES Program Manager

Date: Fri. June 17
Time: 7:00pm
Cost: $10, $8 for members

Before humans settle on the moon or on another planet like Mars, the proper infrastructure will need to be built to ensure survival and protection of valuable equipment. Join us at ‘Imiloa’s June Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, June 17 at 7:00 p.m. with Rodrigo Romo, PISCES Program Manager.


Because of the thin atmosphere and low gravity in places like Mars and the moon, it is important to take into account what debris and dust will result from flying and landing rocket engines in outer space. Rocket engines create a high velocity stream of dust particles which can travel at speeds over 2,000 m/s. Any equipment or hardware in the vicinity can be catastrophically damaged by the abrasive nature of these dust particles. As such, it is of upmost importance that the space equipment is built to withstand these powerful impacts.


In order to protect equipment at the construction site, one of the first things that will be constructed are Vertical Takeoff / Vertical Landing (VTVL) Pads that allow hardware delivery spacecrafts to land and take off in the future space settlement without causing any damage to other assets on the site.


PISCES, in collaboration with NASA KSC, Honeybee Robotics, Hawaii County Department of R&D and ODG-Canada worked on the design and construction of a VTVL Pad in Kea‘au using only local materials. The project included building a lunar analog, leveling the area and placing pavers to create a landing bulls-eye, spreading a protective layer surrounding the bulls-eye and finally testing the design and materials with a 960-pound rocket engine test.


Rodrigo Romo originates from Guadalajara, Mexico where he obtained his degree in Chemical Engineering. He joined PISCES in 2014 as a Project Manager and is responsible for overseeing the VTVL project from start to finish.


‘Imiloa’s monthly Maunakea Skies program includes observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, hosted by Planetarium Technician Emily Peavy. Audiences will 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 members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.

Member Level Discounts: $8 for Kupuna, Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.

May 10 16

NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces Largest Collection of Planets Ever Discovered

by Brea Aamoth

Press Release by NASA

NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

“This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”

Analysis was performed on the Kepler space telescope’s July 2015 planet candidate catalog, which identified 4,302 potential planets. For 1,284 of the candidates, the probability of being a planet is greater than 99 percent – the minimum required to earn the status of “planet.” An additional 1,327 candidates are more likely than not to be actual planets, but they do not meet the 99 percent threshold and will require additional study. The remaining 707 are more likely to be some other astrophysical phenomena. This analysis also validated 984 candidates previously verified by other techniques.

“Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy. Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters. “This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.”

Kepler captures the discrete signals of distant planets – decreases in brightness that occur when planets pass in front of, or transit, their stars – much like the May 9 Mercury transit of our sun. Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system more than two decades ago, researchers have resorted to a laborious, one-by-one process of verifying suspected planets.

This latest announcement, however, is based on a statistical analysis method that can be applied to many planet candidates simultaneously. Timothy Morton, associate research scholar at Princeton University in New Jersey and lead author of the scientific paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, employed a technique to assign each Kepler candidate a planet-hood probability percentage – the first such automated computation on this scale, as previous statistical techniques focused only on sub-groups within the greater list of planet candidates identified by Kepler.

“Planet candidates can be thought of like bread crumbs,” said Morton. “If you drop a few large crumbs on the floor, you can pick them up one by one. But, if you spill a whole bag of tiny crumbs, you’re going to need a broom. This statistical analysis is our broom.”

In the newly-validated batch of planets, nearly 550 could be rocky planets like Earth, based on their size. Nine of these orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, which is the distance from a star where orbiting planets can have surface temperatures that allow liquid water to pool. With the addition of these nine, 21 exoplanets now are known to be members of this exclusive group.

“They say not to count our chickens before they’re hatched, but that’s exactly what these results allow us to do based on probabilities that each egg (candidate) will hatch into a chick (bona fide planet),” said Natalie Batalha, co-author of the paper and the Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “This work will help Kepler reach its full potential by yielding a deeper understanding of the number of stars that harbor potentially habitable, Earth-size planets — a number that’s needed to design future missions to search for habitable environments and living worlds.”

Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified, and 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler. Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets. For four years, Kepler monitored 150,000 stars in a single patch of sky, measuring the tiny, telltale dip in the brightness of a star that can be produced by a transiting planet. In 2018, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will use the same method to monitor 200,000 bright nearby stars and search for planets, focusing on Earth and Super-Earth-sized.

Ames manages the Kepler missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system, with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

For briefing materials from Tuesday’s media teleconference where the new group of planets was announced, visit:

May 6 16

Rare Event: Mercury will Transit the Sun on Monday May 9

by Brea Aamoth

Photo by NASA

During the early morning of May 9th, Mercury will transit the sun. This happens about 13 times each century and the next one won’t be until 2019. Transit events are when one of the interior planets (Mercury or Venus) passes in front of the Sun from our perspective on the planet Earth. These events tend to be incredibly rare; Venus will transit twice every 243 years, while Mercury will transit about 13 times each century. Mercury will reach maximum transit just about an hour before the Sun rises here in Hilo. However, if one wakes up early and uses a solar telescope, they would be able to view the last portion of the transit. Please be advised: Only observe this event through a proper solar telescope or by using a pinhole projector.

Below are some helpful links to help you view this rare occasion!

NASA Coverage:

Time info for seeing the transit in Hilo:

How to build a pinhole projector:


May 6 16

UH Students Surf the Waves of Technology Using CyberCANOE at ‘Imiloa

by Brea Aamoth


‘Imiloa’s CyberCANOE is a virtual reality environment emanating from banks of LCD screens, ambisonic speakers and high speed computers connecting University of Hawai’i classrooms that are oceans apart. The acronym CANOE stands for Collaboration Analysis Navigation & Observation Environment.


The UH Scientific Visualization Class of Spring 2016 wrapped up their semester by inviting the community on May 5, 2016, to engage and interact with their data visualization projects using the CyberCANOE.

These interactive projects ranged from navigating a canoe through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where users could view the coral reef and sea life that surrounds those areas, to virtually swimming through Hawai’i waters to view both native and invasive fish. For each project, the user utilized remote controllers to navigate through the ocean, around coral reefs and beyond.

Each group consisted of Marine Science, Computer Science and Art Department students, all working collaboratively to create these interactive visualization projects.

The CyberCANOE is funded by the Art and Academy for Creative Media (ACM).