UH Hilo’s astronomy center to partner with Maunakea observatories to offer free tours

Announced by President Obama at the White House Astronomy Night in DC: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center will partner with eight of the world’s leading observatories on Maunakea to offer Hawai‛i residents free guided tours into the observatories.

Kaiu Kimura and Alexis-Ann Acohido in front of the White House, DC.
Kaiu Kimura, executive director of ‘ Imiloa Astronomy Center (left) and Alexis-Ann Acohido, a public information officer at Gemini International Observatory. Photo courtesy of Maunakea Observatories. Click to enlarge.

With the goal of inspiring a passion for astronomy among Hawai‘i’s students, teachers, and families, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is partnering with eight of the world’s leading observatories on Maunakea to offer local Hawai‛i residents guided tours of the observatories. ‛Imiloa is an educational outreach center at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The “Kama‘āina Observatory Experience” tour program was announced today by President Obama while he hosts the second White House Astronomy Night today in DC and highlights the importance of inspiring more girls and boys with the wonder of science and space. The 2015 White House Astronomy Night is bringing together students, teachers, astronomers, engineers, scientists, and space enthusiasts of all ages for an opportunity to stargaze from the South Lawn of the White House.

Ka‘iu Kimura, ‘Imiloa executive director, along with Alexis-Ann Acohido, public information officer from the Gemini International Observatory, are in DC attending the event.

“It’s really exciting to be able to be a part of (the event), and bring a little bit of home for (President Obama),” says Kimura. “To share that with the rest of the people that gathered tonight has just been an amazing experience.”

  • See more about event on Twitter.

As part of Astronomy Night, President Obama is announcing new private-sector commitments to further his “Educate to Innovate” campaign to inspire and prepare more girls and boys—especially those from groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—to excel in the STEM fields. The Maunakea observatory tours are part of this nation-wide initiative.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i

Main cone of Imiloa with front sign on lava wall: Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii University of Hawaii at Hilo.
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is an educational outreach center located on the campus of UH Hilo.

The White House press release about the events and projects lists a multitude of partners throughout the country that are joining together to get students interested in STEM activities. Listed in the section on “Inspiring More Students into Science with Astronomy and Space,” is ‘Imiloa and its partnership with the observatories to offer Hawai‛i residents guided tours of their facilities. Also listed as a partner is the future Thirty Meter Telescope.

With the goal of inspiring a passion for astronomy among Hawai’i’s students, teachers, and families, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is partnering with eight of the world’s leading observatories to offer local Hawai‛i residents over the age of 16 free, guided tours into the eight observatories. The partner observatories are W.M. Keck Observatory, Gemini Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Subaru Telescope, NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, Harvard-Smithsonian Center Submillimeter Array, and, in the future, the Thirty Meter Telescope (emphasis and links added).

Starting as early as November 2015, the partnership will on a monthly basis register participants, provide free transport to and from the summit, present cultural insights, offer a free guided tour at least one of the observatories, and introduce the participants to world-class astronomers.

“Eight observatories in Hawai‛i will offer all the residents of that state free guided tours,” says President Obama in his remarks at the White House Astronomy Night. “They didn’t do that when I was in high school. Wish we had thought that up earlier.”

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s interactive exhibits, 3D full dome planetarium, native landscape, and programs and events engage children, families, visitors and the local community in the wonders of the culture, science, and technology found in Hawai‘i. It is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). The center is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology.