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Mar 14 18

‘Imiloa’s 2018 Merrie Monarch Cultural Enrichment Programs

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

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 Astronomy Center

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 Astronomy Center

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 Astronomy Center

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 Astronomy Center

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.

Jan 20 18

Where Do Baby Stars Come From?

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

‘Imiloa presents Dr. Steve Mairs, Support Astronomer at James Clerk Maxwell Telescope
Date: Fri. Feb. 16
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply)

Deep within the cold dust and gas which resides in our Milky Way Galaxy, a dramatic story is unfolding: the birth of stars. Understanding the formation and evolution of stars is not only quintessential to describing the visible universe but it is also important for recognizing and appreciating our origins. The Sun and planets did not always exist and it is through comparing careful observations of our solar neighborhood to cutting-edge theoretical simulations that we are able to investigate our cosmic history and perceive our Solar System in the broader context of the Galaxy and, indeed, the universe.  Learn where baby stars originate and the current theory of star formation at ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk, presented by Dr. Steve Mairs, Support Astronomer at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) on Friday, February 16, 2018 at 7:00pm.


Dr. Mairs will highlight his research in capturing submillimetre light to probe cold dust in the process of forming stars. Situated atop Maunakea, JCMT is the largest single dish telescope of its kind. 


Since 2015, Dr. Mairs has been working with a large group of astronomers around the world using the JCMT to conduct observational programs known as the JCMT Transient Survey. By the end of 2018, they aim to obtain the deepest ever maps of eight nearby stellar nurseries. Their primary goal is to detect brightness variations around forming stars in order to investigate how these brand new suns are currently gaining their mass. 


Dr. Mairs will share images of star forming regions in the directions of famous constellations like Orion, Perseus, Ophiuchus, and Serpens and compare them to advanced computer simulations at the forefront of the field. He will also show how stellar growth spurts are measured in real time and highlight observations of a “twinkling” young star, EC53, which confirm the existence of a newly discovered planet. 


Dr. Steve Mairs is a support astronomer at JCMT. He received his PhD in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. For the past 6 years, his focus has been on researching the connection between the largest and the smallest scales in the Milky Way Galaxy, specifically in the context of the Solar System’s origin. Prior to relocating to Hilo in September, 2017, Dr. Mairs was the outreach coordinator for the observatory at the University of Victoria. Passionate about science education and outreach, he has hosted many public events and has taught thousands of students of all ages.


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.


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 5 18

Secrets from Vesta and Ceres: Results of NASA’s Dawn Mission

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

‘Imiloa presents Dr. Schelte Bus, Deputy Director at NASA IRTF
Date: Fri. Jan. 19
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: $10, $8 for members (member level discounts apply)

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft is on a mission to study Vesta and Ceres, the two largest members of the asteroid belt. These diverse asteroids offer crucial scientific clues into the birth of our Solar System some 4.6 billion years ago. Learn more about this epic quest for knowledge in ‘Imiloa’s Maunakea Skies talk on Friday, January 19 at 7:00 p.m. with Dr. Schelte “Bobby” Bus, Deputy Director at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Maunakea.


 Although the massive asteroids Vesta and Ceres both hold similarities that help us understand the formation of our Solar System, they have many differences in their geological makeup. Vesta has a rocky body, while Ceres is believed to contain large amounts of water and has an icy surface. Vesta’s south pole contains a massive crater measuring 285 miles across and 8 miles deep caused by a giant collision that gouged out one percent of its volume! This collision blasted out over a half a million cubic miles of rock into outer space. Scientist believe that this single collision is the cause for about 5 percent of all meteorites discovered on Earth.


After ten plus years of exploration, the Dawn Mission is nearing its end. The amazing images and measurements that have returned from this mission are leading scientists to a better understanding of what we see today in our Solar System.  Dr. Bus will share highlights from the Dawn Mission, paired with a discussion on the ground-based observations, like those made at NASA IRTF on Maunakeawhich have helped enhance the scientific return from this exciting mission of discovery.

Artists concept of NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft (


Dr. Bus received his doctorate in planetary science in 1999 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  In 2000, he moved to Hilo to accept a position with the University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy as a staff astronomer for NASA IRTF. He became Deputy Director of NASA IRTF in 2017. His research focuses on the physical properties of asteroids and how processes such as collisions alter the asteroid belt, helping to feed material like meteoroids and Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) into near-Earth space.


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 and $8 for ‘Imiloa members (member level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at 808-932-8901.


Dec 22 17

Ianuali (January) Sky Watch 2018

by Imiloa Astronomy Center

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

Astronomical Explorations of 2017:
From the completion of the epic voyage of Hōkūle‘a to the naming of an asteroid detected from Hawai’i, and the latest findings of gravitational waves in space, 2017 has been an exciting year for astronomical explorations on Earth and in space.

In June of 2017, the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage of Hōkūle‘a culminated with reentry into Hawaiian waters, bringing to a close the widely publicized and closely monitored three-year international voyage. On its voyage around the world, navigating by the light of the stars and other clues from nature, Hōkūleʻa sailed an impressive 44,000 nautical miles, stopped at over 150 ports, visited 23 countries, and enlisted approximately 250 crewmembers. This canoe is currently conducting a Mahalo Sail around the islands in Hawaiʻi.


`Oumuamua (Photo Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

ʻOumuamua, meaning scout or leader, is the first observed asteroid to visit Earth from interstellar space. Its brief visit to our solar system was only recently discovered ten weeks ago by University of Hawaiʻi researcher, Rob Weryk, using the universityʻs Pan-STARRS telescope on the summit of Haleakalā. This seven-football field length asteroid is now on a path that is taking it rapidly away from Earth and the sun to continue its journey into deep space. According to researchers the asteroid could be rocky with a surface that possesses a high metal content. ʻOmuamua’s name was conceived through collaborative efforts between University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, which have adopted a goal of assigning Hawaiian names to all Hawaiʻi based astronomical discoveries. (Read more on the naming of ʻOumuamua here). 


An artist’s impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars, NASA.

Gravitational waves, which are ripples in space predicted by Einstein in his theory of relativity, were first observed by astronomers and physicists in 2015.  Researchers have since detected other gravitational waves and have assumed that the collision of black holes produce the strongest gravity waves.  However, on August 17th of 2017, a historic discovery was made of gravitational waves emitted from a Kilonova, a neutron star merger, a type of event that had been theorized but never observed. Astronomers can now use this gravitational wave detection to locate light emitted from the collision.  This revolutionary discovery marks a new era and a whole new way for astronomers to observe the universe.


Navigating the night sky with Hawaiian Star Compass:
The circle of the horizon gives the physical shape to the Hawaiian Star Compass which has been discussed in previous columns. To make the compass functional the navigator memorizes the rising and setting points of key stars. To organize the night sky the celestial sphere is divided into four even sections, which are identified with a specific “starline.”   A recent creation of the voyaging community, the four starlines follow traditional Hawaiian themes and are used as a heuristic technique to learn and acquire navigational skills.

Starlines are a collection of bright stars and constellations that line up north to south.

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 at a particular time of year, they also serve as seasonal starlines for winter, spring, summer, and fall.  


The winter starline, Kekāomakaliʻi, is in the shape of a canoe bailer, scooping up the stars on the eastern horizon and emptying them out in the west during its nightly transit across the sky. The scoop part of the bailer is made up of the northernmost bright star Hōkūlei, Capella, in the constellation Auriga. Hōkūlei rises in the star house Manu Koʻolau. The bailer arcs towards the eastern horizon and the constellation Nāmāhoe (The Twins), Gemini, and the two bright stars Nānāmua (Looking Forward), Castor; and Nānāhope (Looking Back), Pollux.


The starline turns south towards the direction of the constellation Puana (Little Dog), Procyon, and continues southward to the brightest star in the night sky, ʻAʻā (Burning Brightly), Sirius. The handle of the bailer is made up of ʻAʻā and the second brightest star in the night sky, Kealiʻikonaikalewa (Chief of the Southern Skies), Canopus.


The scoop of the bailer is filled with visible and identifiable constellations. Closest to ʻAʻā is Kaheiheionākeiki (Cats Cradle), Orions Belt, a Hawaiian string game played on the fingers of island children. The northernmost star of the three that forms the belt of Orion, Mintaka, marks the eastern star house, Hikina. Moving northwest and through Orion’s Belt will lead you to Kapuahi (Sacred Fire), Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the Bull. Continuing along the northwest direction is the fuzzy constellation, Makaliʻi, Pleiades, in the eastern evening sky which also marks the beginning of the Makahiki season, a time when the Hawaiian chiefly class collected tribute and the commoner class celebrated with athletic competitions.


Thus, the four starlines are used as contemporary tools for learning and organizing the night sky in the context of Hawaiian culture.


January’s night sky:
The night sky of 2018 starts off with another supermoon on January 1st.  As mentioned in last month’s column, the moon does not orbit around Earth in a perfect circle; it orbits in an ellipse or oval shape, which means that the moon’s distance from Earth changes as it orbits.  When the moon’s distance is closest to Earth, that special location on the moon’s orbit is known as perigee. A supermoon occurs when the moon is full and lines up with the perigee.


As the starline of Kekāomakali‘i rises in the east, the starline of Kalupeakawelo will be setting in the west. Just to the east of Kalupeakawelo, beneath ‘Iwakeli‘i (Chief Frigate Bird) Cassiopeia, will be the faint but beautiful Andromeda Galaxy. This is the only large galaxy visible to the human eye.


There will be two full moons in January; one on the first day of the month and one on the last. When this happens the second full moon is often referred to as a blue moon even though the moon’s color remains the same. On January 31st, the blue moon will also coincide with the moon’s perigee, giving January its second supermoon. To top it off, between 3pm and 5pm (HST), the moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow in a lunar eclipse, which is often referred to as a “blood moon.” On January 31st, look forward to viewing a “super blue blood moon.”


Early Morning Observations  

The early morning hours provide a very different view of the sky. Throughout January, sunrise occurs near 7 am, giving early risers a beautiful view of the sky and the famous Nāhiku (Big Dipper) will be in the northeast direction. On January 6th, Mars and Jupiter will come together in a conjunction and the planets will appear to be almost on top of each other. The best viewing time is 5 am.


The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a world-class center for informal science education located at the UH Hilo campus, showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration, guided by the light of the stars. Chad Kālepa Baybayan ( serves as Navigator-in-Residence and Emily Peavy ( as Planetarium Technician Support Facilitator.