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Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center Dedication and Astronomy Open House

MKAEC

The MKAEC will include three conical shapes that depict the major Hawaiian mountains Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. Courtesy of Durrant-Media Five, which designed the MKAEC.

On June 30, members of the community, astronomers, university officials, and dignitaries gathered at the University of Hawaii at Hilo's University Park of Science and Technology to celebrate a dedication and blessing of the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (MKAEC).

The center, now under construction, is slated to open in late 2005, and will include an exhibit hall, planetarium, classroom, gift shop, and restaurant. The exhibits will feature Mauna Kea's world-class observatories and Hawaiian cultural displays.

In a speech to several hundred in attendance, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye remarked that the Polynesians had sailed to the islands using the stars to navigate without losing their way. "Christopher Columbus," he continued, "went looking for India in 1492—and he got lost."

NASA Associate Administrator for Education Adena Williams Loston, Acting UH President David McClain, UH Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, UH Institute for Astronomy Director Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, and Office of Mauna Kea Management Director Bill Stormont were among those in attendance.

A very special feature of the event was the presentation of the inaugural Impact Awards to those who have made a difference in astronomy in Hawaii. Walter Steiger received the Scientific Impact Award, and Wil Kyselka, the Educational Impact Award. Mitsuo Akiyama (see related article) and Clay Bertleman received posthumous awards for economic impact and cultural impact, respectively.

Preceding the dedication, there was a special astronomy open house spread throughout University Park. All the observatories on Mauna Kea, including those based in Waimea, participated. Observatory staff and educators from East Hawaii schools presented exhibits and activities. More than 250 children from schools and summer programs participated in hands-on activities that included telescope mirror grinding, comet making, and Hawaiian language and cultural education.

The IfA is looking forward to working with the MKAEC to increase community involvement with and interest in astronomy in Hawaii.

More information about MKAEC can be found at http://maunakea.hawaii.edu.