The Study Abroad Newsletter

Stars in Hawaii

By Jessie Ladouceur | Anthropology Major

I had not had the opportunity to visit Mauna Kea while studying in Hilo, nor did I know much about the mountain before this event. So I was excited to plan and attend Stars in Hawaiʻi with UH Hilo Astronomy Professor Marianne Takamıya. Thirty-two participants carefully listened to Marianne outline the history of astronomy in Hawaiʻi and Mauna Kea. The photos she shared were stunning, and at that moment, I did not believe the sky could truly look like the photos.

Sunset View from Mauna Kea

We drove from UH Hilo to Mauna Kea Visitor Center the following Saturday. The drive up Saddle Road was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to have bright blue skies providing stunning views of the Big Island. I was impressed we could drive from sea level to the 9,200 ft in just over an hour. We took time to acclimate to the elevation and enjoyed a bento. Then, as the sun started to descend, we carefully walked to the top of Mauna Kea Visitor Center Sunset Hill Trail. This mile ascent is steep, cold, and windy but worth the lack of oxygen.

Student in Sunset

At the top of the hill, the pink and orange colors dominated the beautiful panoramic view. On this night, there was rain in Hilo. So we could turn around from the sunset and see dark clouds over town while we were in paradise. As the sky got darker, we could even see the glow from Kīlauea in the distance. By nightfall, I had understood what Marianne had meant by high altitude and no light pollution contributing to viewing Hawaiʻi’s night sky. I felt I was at the edge of the universe. Stars in Hawaiʻi was quite a joy to plan and attend.