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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/.