AstroWeek 2004 in Manoa and Hilo
by Kathryn Whitman, IfA Graduate Student
Astronomer Bob Joseph (left) helped visitors at the Manoa
Open House find their "birth star."
The Institute for Astronomy kicked off AstroWeek in Hawaii on Sunday,
April 18, with an open house at its Manoa headquarters. Families, schoolchildren,
and amateur astronomers explored the various exhibits and activities intended
to educate and entertain.
Children enjoyed making comets out of dry ice and dirt, and watched what
happened when they left their comets in the Sun. Other activities for children
included bottle-rocket and sundial making, and physics demonstrations that
explored rotation, magnetism, and refraction. One of the most loved displays
showed a flying pig formed from reflections on two curved mirrors.
Visitors also had the opportunity to view the Sun and Venus through telescopes,
tour the various IfA labs, hear astronomy lectures for both adults and
children, and see what life is like aboard the International Space Station
through the eyes of astronaut Ed Lu, who was a post-doctoral fellow at
IfA. Starlab, a portable planetarium, was hugely popular.
Attractions in the IfA library included astronomy displays from the State
Science Fair and live pictures of the Sun from Mees Observatory on Haleakala.
Visitors with questions about astronomy could query IfA astronomers at
Ask an Astronomer. Those wishing to pursue their astronomy interests even
further could visit the Hawaiian Astronomical Society booth, while teachers
looking for more information about teaching astronomy in their classrooms
could visit the schoolteachers' support bureau.
The AstroWeek finale occurred on Saturday, April 24, at the Third Annual
AstroDay fair held at Hilo's Prince Kuhio Plaza. The 15,000 people attending
the event included local residents, visitors from two cruise ships, and
a group participating in the AstroDay Tour organized by Astronomy magazine
and Mayhugh Travel.
A pule (prayer) and oli (chant) performed by Koa Ell and Moana Pihana. Photo courtesy of Gary Fujihara.
By AstroDay tradition, the event was preceded by a pule (prayer) and oli
(chant) performed by Koa Ell and Moana Pihana. Hawaiian cultural representatives
spoke about the relationship ancient Hawaiians had with Mauna Kea and how
they navigated the oceans by the stars. Hawaiian musical acts provided
entertainment, and a Hawaiian wayfaring canoe was on display.
Subaru Telescope displayed
a scale model of the summit region of Mauna Kea.
Each observatory on Mauna Kea had its own booth, and the NASA Infrared
Telescope Facility (IRTF) provided a video connection to the summit, allowing
people to ask questions while viewing live observations of Venus and other
planets. Children had the opportunity to "visit" a scale model
of the summit of Mauna Kea. This was a unique opportunity, since the thin
air makes it dangerous for children to travel to the real summit.
Youngsters were challenged to drive the rover by viewing only a video
output from a tiltable camera mounted on the mast.
Visitors gazed at the Sun and Venus through small telescopes set up
at the mall entrance. Attendees also had the opportunity to control the
Mauna Kea Exploration Rover, a cousin of those exploring Mars. They remotely
steered the robotic vehicle around rocks to search for water and unusual
minerals. Another very popular event was the BotBall tournament. Robots
built by local middle school and high school students raced to put a
ball into a hole first.
For more pictures of AstroDay, see http://www.astroday.net/.