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Astronomy Open House to highlight MKAEC blessing/dedication construction site

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Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Contact: Dr. Marlene Hapai, (808) 933-3917

For Immediate Release

Rendering of Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center’s exhibit hall

The University of Hawaii at Hilo University Park of Science and Technology will take on the atmosphere of a science ho`olaulea at the blessing and dedication of the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (MKAEC) construction site on Wednesday, June 30. The event is free and open to the public.

Festivities begin at noon with an Open House supported by observatory base facilities located in the Park. Participating facilities will include the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO), Gemini Observatory, Joint Astronomy Centre, Subaru Telescope, University of Hawai`i Institute for Astronomy (IfA), Smithsonian Submillimeter Array (SMA), and the Canada France Hawai`i Telescope (CFHT) from Waimea. The Open House will feature a wide range of astronomical exhibits and various activities, including solar viewing at IfA, a scale model of the solar system distributed throughout the Park and visitor tours of the IfA and the Subaru visitor gallery.

“Although we’ve been here for several years, not many people know what’s behind those bushes makai of Komohana Street,” said Gary Fujihara, public outreach officer for the IfA and chair of the Mauna Kea Observatory Outreach Committee. “This is a rare opportunity to get a first-hand look at work being done atop Mauna Kea and participate in hands-on activities.”

Additional scientific and Hawaiian cultural hands-on and interactive exhibits and activities will be set up outside throughout the Park for school groups and the general public to enjoy. A number of Big Island teachers, including Pascale Pinner of Hilo Intermediate School, this year’s winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, will contribute their time and expertise through their sharing of fun and educational hands-on activities for those in attendance.Other participating groups and organizations will include the UH Hilo Astronomy and Physics department, UH Hilo Astronomy Club, Ka Haka Ula O` Ke`elikolani College of Hawaiian Language, Hale Kuamoo and Aha Punana Leo.

Entertainment will commence at 3:00 p.m. leading up to the blessing and dedication fronting the Caltech facility at the corner of A`ohoku Place and Nowelo Street.

The 3:30 p.m. ceremony will include brief remarks from various high-ranking University, County, State and Federal officials. Three awards for contributions to the scientific, educational and economic aspects of the astronomy enterprise will also be presented. Entertainment by Na Hoa O Ke Kula Nui and refreshments will top off the event from 4:15 p.m. through 5:00 p.m.

Guest parking will be provided on the UH Hilo campus. Visitors may park at the Campus Center and meet under the covered walkway, or at Hale `Ikena and take the shuttle, which will depart every 15-20 minutes.

School groups may schedule a visit to attend the Open House and hands-on activities by contacting Amy at (808) 933-3916. Those interested in scheduling a group visit are asked to do so by June 21st.

MKAEC is a $28 million development funded through a joint partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The 40,000-square-foot Center, scheduled to open in late 2005, will become the premier interpretative facility for showcasing the cutting-edge research on Mauna Kea. Major components will include a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall, multi-purpose planetarium, classrooms for Center programs, a scenic view restaurant and gift shop.

“The University Park has already established itself as a world center for modern astronomy given its facilities and scientific/technical staff located within close proximity of the UH Hilo campus,” said Dr. Marlene Hapai, MKAEC director. “MKAEC will link the scientific community with the community at-large by providing a state-of-the-art facility to share these exciting discoveries.”

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