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Mar 15 17

‘Imiloa Announces First-Ever Endowment Gift

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

The legacy of the late educator and government planner Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a is being celebrated through the establishment of a new endowment at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.


Gordon Pi‘ianai‘a of Honolulu and Norman Pi‘ianai‘a of Kamuela have made a gift through the University of Hawai‘i Foundation to create a new permanently endowed fund to honor their sister and expand access to educational programming at ‘Imiloa by K-12 students.


In announcing the gift, ‘Imiloa Executive Director Ka‘iu Kimura stated, “Just as we are marking the 11th anniversary of our opening, ‘Imiloa is thrilled to have our very first permanent endowment, a fund that will benefit the center in perpetuity and enable us to share our unique brand of programming with both current and future generations of young people. We are humbled by the Pi‘ianai‘a family’s vote of confidence in ‘Imiloa and excited about what this will mean in our second decade and beyond!” UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney added, “This wonderful gift will benefit the children of Hawai‘i for years to come.”


Born and raised on O‘ahu, Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a (1947-2006) pursued a noteworthy career in the public sector, starting with her service as a Hawai‘i County planner helping to develop a general plan for the island. She later served with the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority and worked on the Kaka‘ako Improvement District, among other projects. She lectured in geography and planning at UH Mānoa from 1980 to 1984, administered the Task Force on the Hawaiian Homes Commission from 1982-1983, then held appointments as Hawai‘i County deputy planning director, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, director of the Office of International Relations and Affairs, and deputy director of the state Department of Agriculture.


Norman Pi‘ianai‘a commented about his sister, “Even though Ilima was from Honolulu, she loved the Big Island and its people.  She moved here around 1970 and mentored in the Planning Department under Director Raymond Suefuji during the days of Mayor Shunichi Kimura, a time when things were in a process of great change in Hawai‘i.  With ancestral roots firmly planted here, we are confident that Ilima would be pleased to know she has in this way returned and will continue to help nurture and contribute to the future education and development of Hawai‘i Island youngsters.”


A longtime friend of Ilima, Deanne Lemle Bosnak, remembers her as “a perfect embodiment of ‘aloha.’” She personally represented Hawai‘i’s beautiful blend of cultures, its warm hospitality and its welcoming aloha spirit. She was also a diplomat who worked hard to build bridges between disparate communities and cultures, demonstrating in everything she did a deep respect for the land and the values of its people.”


Annual distributions from the Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a Endowment will support access to ‘Imiloa by local elementary, middle and high school students, and may include subsidized admission and or transportation to the center, subsidized fees for ‘Imiloa programs, and/or program outreach to rural parts of Hawai‘i Island and the state.


To make a gift to the Ilima Pi‘ianai‘a Endowment, please visit

Mar 9 17

Reflection: Why is it Dark at Night?

by Emily Peavy

‘Imiloa invited Dr. Tom Geballe, Astronomer at Gemini Observatory, to the planetarium where he discussed the phenomenon of the dark night sky in Why is it Dark at Night? A Modern Look at Olbers’ Paradox.


Darkness Between the Stars

The first astronomical observation that every child makes is that the sky is dark at night. While we do see the pinpoint light of stars peeking through the void, as a whole the sky is dark. As we grow older, we learn that the stars that make up the nighttime sky are but a small fraction of the billions of stars that stretch across the universe. However, if there are so many stars across the whole universe, why isn’t our night sky shining bright with their combined brilliance?

Old Ideas of Cosmology

Before the advancement of Einsteinian physics and Hubble’s observations of the expanding universe—astronomers and philosophers had the natural assumption that the universe was static. A static universe means neither contracting nor expanding, with no beginning, a universe that has always existed, with an infinite number of stars shining perpetually. With this theory, no matter how far away a star is from Earth, its light would have time to reach Earth and every line of sight would end with a star.

However, today we have a different model of the universe. We know that the universe does not contain an infinite number of stars, just about 10 billion trillion stars. We also know that the universe is expanding out in all directions, and has been since its creation from the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. The nighttime sky is dark due to the universe’s immense present size and these properties.


Don’t miss our next Astronomy Talk, The NEO Hazard: NASA and Planetary Defense on Saturday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. in ‘Imiloa’s planetarium. Rob Landis and Dr. Kelly Fast of NASA will discuss possible asteroid impacts on Earth and NASA’s protection efforts with the newly established office: the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

We also have an exciting presentation coming up titled Learning to Live on Mars… on Mauna Loa, which is part of our Maunakea Skies series on Friday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m. Brian Shiro, Geology Lead at the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog Simulation (HI-SEAS), will discuss their program that researches how crews will function on long-duration missions to Mars.
For more information on events at ‘Imiloa, visit our Event Calendar. Tickets are $10, $8 for members. Pre-purchase your tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or over the phone by calling 808-932-8901.


Mar 7 17

Reflection: Exploring Mars with 150,000 Earthlings

by Emily Peavy

‘Imiloa invited Dr. Meg Schwamb, Assistant Scientist at Gemini Observatory, to the planetarium where she discussed citizen science projects that are currently studying unique surface features on the red planet of Mars in Maunakea Skies: Exploring Mars with 150,000 Earthlings.

Like nothing we’ve seen on Earth:
Mars is often referred to as “Earth’s little brother,” as it shares many similarities to planet Earth. Like Earth, Mars orbits within the habitable zone, its axial tilt causes seasons for the northern and southern hemispheres and it’s within the sun’s region where it’s warm enough for liquid water to exist. Despite these similarities, observations from orbiting spacecraft have revealed features around the poles of Mars that are nothing like we’ve observed from Earth.

Dark “fans” have been observed on Mars, particularly near the southern pole of the planet. These dark features are thought to be geysers of carbon dioxide (CO2). During the Martian winter, CO2 ice (also known as dry ice) collects beneath the surface near the poles. When the spring season starts warming the southern hemisphere, the CO2 ice sublimates (transforms directly from a solid form to a gaseous form) and erupts from the surface. When the Martian winds blow this material, planetary scientists are able to probe the atmosphere of the red planet and study wind patterns and other atmospheric phenomena. Additionally, some of this gas remains trapped beneath the surface and forms “spider” channels as it travels beneath the surface of the planet.

Many observations of these features and phenomena come from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which started its orbital mission in 2006. HiRISE is able to detect surface features as small as coffee tables from the orbit of Mars.

Average, everyday people explore surface features on Mars:

Over the past decade scientists around the world have seen the rise of “citizen science” projects. These projects connect people through the Internet, allowing average, everyday people to participate in scientific projects. Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains allows volunteers to explore and identify features, such as fans and spiders, on the surface of Mars.

Participants map out features and sort through images taken with Reconnaissance’s HiRISE camera, and the lower resolution CTX camera. Computers are not good at identifying these features, but they are easily spotted with the human eye, making these “citizen scientists” all the more valuable.

The above image shows how “citizen scientists” have mapped the observed features on Mars, and how scientists can average this information into usable data.
Credit: Planetfour

Information generated by these projects are implemented by scientists to map the poles of the red planet. This also assists in gaining a better understanding of how seasonal changes affect the surface features and the atmosphere on Mars. In her presentation, Dr. Schwamb showcased some recent discoveries from Planet Four: Terrains, including HiRISE images from some of the 20 new regions of interest suspected of having spider channels, confirmed by HiRISE imaging.

Feb 28 17

Mahalo for Celebrating 11 Years with ‘Imiloa!

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

Over 2,500 community members joined us at ‘Imiloa for our 11th Birthday Celebration on Sunday, February 26. Keiki and adults alike enjoyed pounding kalo, creating DIY silly-putty, flying through the Universe in the planetarium, learning about native plants in the garden sale, discovering how to help prevent Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, digging their hands into different varieties of limu (seaweed), enjoying delicious cake, interacting in the exhibit hall and exploring the many other indoor and outdoor activities! ‘Imiloa extends a big mahalo to everyone who joined us at our Birthday Celebration, and we hope you join us at ‘Imiloa again soon!

Keiki pounding kalo grown in ‘Imiloa’s native gardens!

Families enjoying activities in Moanahōkū Hall

Kalo Pounding

DIY Silly Putty

Learning about earthquakes using our ‘Science-on-a-Sphere’ exhibit

Limu (seaweed) pressing activity
See more photos on our Facebook page!

Mahalo KTA Super Stores for sponsoring our 11th Birthday Celebration. Because of KTA Super Stores’ support, our birthday celebration was free to the public. A special thanks to our volunteers and community organizations who created activities and information booths during our special event:

KTA Super Stores
‘Alalā Project
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
Gemini Observatory / AURA
Hale Paʻa Kaua
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Hawaiʻi Youth Challenge
‘Imiloa Docents and Volunteers
Institute for Astronomy (IfA)
Kiwanis Club of East Hawai’i
Maunakea Forest Restoration Project
PISCES Hawaiʻi
Starbase Hawaiʻi
Subaru Telescope
UHH Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes
UHH College of Pharmacy
UH CTAHR – Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death
UHH Marine Science Department

Keiki learning about various types of lava rock

Feb 24 17

Learning to Live on Mars…on Mauna Loa

by Brea Aamoth

Tucked away on the northern flank of Mauna Loa overlooking Maunakea is a white domed structure, where NASA is studying what it takes to live on Mars. This is the Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program, which is aimed at researching issues related to how crews will function on long-duration missions to Mars. HI-SEAS creates missions and recruits crewmembers who live in the Mars-like habitat for periods ranging from four to twelve months, in order to better understand the planet’s living conditions. Learn more about this quest to make human life possible on the Red Planet at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk with Brian Shiro, Geology Lead at HI-SEAS on Friday, March 17 at 7:00pm.

Lucie uses the NASA KSC Swamp Works geotechnical tool while Annie records the data.

During HI-SEAS missions, some of the crew’s activities require them to leave the habitat and conduct Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs) while wearing simulated space suits to approximate the encumbrances astronauts would face while exploring the surface of Mars. This helps to identify and test best practices for future field explorations on the surface of Mars. Funded by NASA, these missions also include supervision by a remote support team via an imposed 40-minute round trip communications delay, replicating real-life Mars-like communication conditions. Shiro will take you through the day-to-day life of a HI-SEAS mission and what it’s like learning to live on Mars!


As a collaborator on this project since 2012, Shiro leads the development, assignment and evaluation of geological field tasks given to the HI-SEAS crews to gauge their team performance under realistic mission constraints. He has experience in over a dozen field expeditions from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many tropical destinations in-between. He spent over 60 days aboard research vessels mapping the seafloor and served on two simulated Mars mission crews in Canada and Utah. He received his B.A. in Integrated Science, Geology and Physics from Northwestern University, an M.A. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Washington University and an M.S. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where he applies geophysical exploration techniques to study lava tubes, seamounts and subsurface resources that could support life on other planets.

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 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 UHH/HawCC Student, Kupuna, Individual, Dual, and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.

Feb 23 17

The NEO Hazard: NASA and Planetary Defense

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

A Presentation by Rob Landis and Dr. Kelly Fast

Date: Sat. March 11
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: $10, $8 for members

Near-Earth Objects or ‘NEOs’ are leftover bits of solar system jetsam and flotsam that have been nudged into orbit around the Earth, allowing them to come within our close vicinity. NASA recently established a new office to coordinate planetary defense-related activities to mitigate the hazard of potential impact by such asteroids. Learn more about possible asteroid impacts, and NASA protection efforts at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s upcoming astronomy talk with Rob Landis and Dr. Kelly Fast on Saturday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Photo: Time-lapse image of a retrograde Oort cloud comet NASA/JPL-Caltech

The creation of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is a logical extension of NASA’s NEO Observations programs, which began nearly two decades ago. Since that program’s inception in 1998, NASA-funded endeavors have discovered more than 98% of all new NEOs. Observatories on Hawai‘i Island and Maui are key to these discoveries and help us better understand the makeup of these celestial vagabonds in our neighborhood.


In their presentation, Fast and Landis will share current efforts to detect, track, and characterize comets and asteroids that come close to Earth. They will also discuss the steps that NASA plans to take to deflect a potential asteroid on an impact trajectory.


Landis is currently assigned to the NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and is an engineer within the Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate. He’s had a varied career on several NASA space missions including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn (and Titan), the Mars Exploration Rovers and the International Space Station. He received his B.S. in Astrophysics from Michigan State University and his M.S. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota.


Dr. Fast manages the Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, where she is also the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) Program Scientist. Fast earned her Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Maryland. She studied the atmospheres of Mars, Jupiter and Titan as an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center before coming to NASA Headquarters in 2011.



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.

Feb 14 17

Why is it Dark at Night? A Modern Look at Olber’s Paradox

by Brea Aamoth

A Presentation by Dr. Tom Geballe of Gemini Observatory

Date: Fri. March 3
Time: 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.
Cost: $10 ($8 for members)

The sky is dark at night —this is a fundamental observational fact of cosmology that can be observed by everyone. This is also fundamental to our existence, to our physiology and to our cultures. The obvious answer to the question “why is it dark at night?” is that the sun is shining on the other side of the Earth, and the light of the distant stars is much weaker than the sun. But how is this possible when there are so many stars that have been shining for so long? And how dark is the sky? Is it dark only to eyes like ours that are sensitive to visible light, or is it also dark to infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray and radio ‘eyes’?

Join us at ‘Imiloa on Friday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m. as Dr. Tom Geballe of Gemini Observatory answers these questions, as well as delving into historical and scientific attempts to understand this simple yet important observation. Dr. Geballe will discuss Olber’s Paradox: a historical argument that states the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the assumption of an infinite and eternal “static universe”. Olber’s Paradox argues that if the universe is populated by an infinite amount of stars, and if the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time, then any sight line from Earth must end at the very bright surface of a star. This paradox states that the night sky should be bright in a static universe, contradicting the observed darkness of night.


Dr. Geballe received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of California at Berkeley and his PhD in Physics from Berkeley. After one postdoctoral year at Berkeley, two years as a Research Fellow at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and four years as a Carnegie Fellow in Pasadena, he moved to Hawaii to join the staff of the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT). In 1987 he became UKIRT’s Astronomer-in-charge, in 1990 its Associate Director, and in 1994 its Head of Operations. In 1998 he accepted a tenured astronomer position at Gemini Observatory, where he is currently employed.


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.

Feb 8 17

‘Imiloa’s FREE 11th Birthday Celebration: Sun. Feb. 26

by Brea Aamoth

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center invites the community to our 11th Birthday Celebration on Sunday, February 26, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

This fun-filled day will feature indoor and outdoor activities for the entire ‘ohana organized around the theme of ‘Earth, Sea and Sky.’ And thanks to KTA Super Stores, the center will be open free of charge!

Birthday offerings will include a limu (seaweed) pressing art activity, kalo pounding, a mock fish net throwing and patching activity, a plant sale, origami, a ‘tsunami wave tank’, ‘Alalā mask making with the ‘Alalā Project, DIY silly-putty making, a ‘Ballooniverse’ activity to teach keiki about the expansion of the Universe, and so much more! This free day includes complimentary access to ‘Imiloa’s exhibit hall, special shows in the ‘Imiloa planetarium, a scavenger hunt, space trivia and more. KTA Super Stores will staff a food tent with ‘ono food and beverage options available for purchase throughout the day.

“We’re thrilled to be celebrating our 11th year of exploration at ‘Imiloa and truly thank our community for their continuous support since we opened our doors in 2006,” said Ka‘iu Kimura, Executive Director of ‘Imiloa. “We are privileged to have this 11th Birthday Celebration sponsored by KTA Super Stores, which has played a cornerstone role in supporting ‘Imiloa’s educational and cultural outreach from the very beginning.”

“KTA Super Stores is pleased to partner with ‘Imiloa. We have supported ‘Imiloa from conception, through construction, and even today, through current operations,” said Toby Taniguchi, President of KTA Super Stores. “Barry (Toby’s father) was heavily involved with Maunakea through the Maunakea Management Board, and it’s fitting that we support this astronomy education center servicing our island community.”

As a special birthday gift to the community and for one day only, we will be offering $10 off all levels of membership, for both new and renewing members. This will be reserved for memberships purchased on-site on Sunday, February 26. Current members are welcome to take advantage of this discount and renew early.

To help us celebrate, and for a chance to win great prizes; don’t forget to post pictures using the hashtag #ImiloaTurns11 on the day of our event! For questions or more information, call 808-932-8901.

Feb 2 17

Maunakea Speaker Series: Birds of Paradise Lost: Evolution, Extinction and Conservation of Hawai’i’s Birds

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

A Presentation by Dr. Rob Fleischer, Senior Scientist with Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park

Please join us as the Maunakea Speaker Series kicks off its first community presentation Thursday, February 9 starting at 7 pm. This free Speaker Series will be held in the UH Hilo Sciences and Technology Building (STB) room 108. On-campus parking is open and available without charge.

Dr. Rob Fleischer will discuss Hawaii’s native birds, and how he and his colleagues use DNA methods to study the evolutionary relationships, population genetics, diets, and the impacts and mitigation of introduced disease.

Hawaiian Honeycreepers

Hawaiian Honeycreepers

The extinct moa-nalo

The extinct moa-nalo









Dr. Fleischer’s research with the Smithsonian Institution involves application of DNA and genetic analyses to studies in conservation, evolution and animal behavior.  His research often focuses on the use of DNA and genetics to document changes in genetic variation (especially with recently extinct Hawaiian avifauna) and to study the evolutionary interactions between hosts, vectors and infectious disease organisms (such as introduced avian malaria in native Hawaiian birds).

Maunakea Speaker Series is presented in partnership with:



Jan 31 17

‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies Talk: Exploring Mars with 150,000 Earthlings

by Brea Aamoth

Date: Fri. Feb. 17
Time: 7pm
Cost: $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply)

‘Imiloa presents Dr. Meg Schwamb, Assistant Scientist at Gemini Observatory

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Schwamb

The Red Planet of Mars is a dynamic world. Its icy south pole is sculpted by the never-ending cycle of freezing and thawing carbon dioxide ice, causing materials to travel through hundreds of thousands of dark fans. When observed from orbit, these fans appear as long dark streaks that are thought to be jets of material erupting from the Martian surface. By studying these unique features we can better understand Mars’ climate and how it differs from Earth, opening up a whole new wealth of knowledge. Learn more about Mars exploration at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m. with Dr. Meg Schwamb, Assistant Scientist at Gemini Observatory.

Dr. Schwamb will introduce the Planet Four project, a project in which researchers have collaborated with over 150,000 “citizen scientist” volunteers worldwide. Connected through the power of the internet, volunteers map these fans and other surface features formed by carbon dioxide jets helping planetary scientist characterize surfaces on Mars. Dr. Schwamb will discuss the discoveries made by these citizen scientists and explain how people can get involved in exploring Mars from the comfort of their own home.


Dr. Schwamb received her doctorate in Planetary Science from the California Institute of Technology in 2011. Prior to her work with Gemini, she was a National Science Foundation fellow at Yale University, and previously was an Academia Sinica Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan. She has collaborated with hundreds of people to search for new planets outside of our Solar System, and study the climate of Mars. She is a member of the science team for the Zooniverse’s Planet Four projects using human pattern recognition to map wind-blown seasonal fans appearing on Mars’ South Pole.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Schwamb


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 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 UHH/HawCC Student, Kupuna, Individual, Dual, and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold, and Corporate Members.