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Mauna Kea on Your Bookshelf

by Kathleen Robertson, IfA Librarian

Four books published in 2005 offer varying perspectives on Mauna Kea. Two focus on the mountain itself; the others feature Mauna Kea as a location

Mauna Kea: A Guide to Hawaii's Sacred Mountain, by Leslie Lang and David A. Byrne (Watermark Publishing, $17.95), fulfills the promise of the title. This guide covers the geology and flora and fauna of the mountain, as well as identifying the telescopes on the summit. An excellent chapter discusses the place of Mauna Kea in Hawaiian cultural traditions. The book describes the route up the mountain in detail, and gives the necessary warnings to keep visitors safe. An overview of the Visitor Information Station, which is managed by Byrne and located at the 9,300-foot level, and a preview of the new Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii (formerly called the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center) in Hilo, are included. This is a useful guide both when planning a visit to Mauna Kea and when actually traveling on the mountain.

 

 

A Gentle Rain of Starlight: The Story of Astronomy on Mauna Kea, by Michael J. West (Island Heritage, $13.99), is a beautifully illustrated paean to this amazing mountain. The author is an astronomer with extensive observing experience. His words and pictures exemplify the feelings of reverence and exultation astronomers have for Mauna Kea, which is characterized as the greatest observing location on Earth. The telescopes are pictured and described with insights into the different types of research each produces.

Beyond Jupiter
 

 

Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel, by Fred Bortz (Joseph Henry Press, hard cover $21, paper $10), is the newest title in the Women's Adventures in Science series, aimed at enlightening and inspiring young people, especially girls, to pursue scientific careers. Television viewers know Heidi Hammel from the Jupiter/Shoemaker-Levy 9 collision press conferences. This book tracks her development from childhood to mature scientist. She did her PhD at the Institute for Astronomy using observations done with the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea. The book illustrates how a career in astronomy develops, and covers both Hammel's work and family life. It is written for a younger audience, and includes sections on astronomy topics such as the planets and the electromagnetic spectrum.

 

Cold Dark Matter
  Cold Dark Matter: A Morgan O'Brien Mystery, by Alex Brett (Dunburn, $8.98), is more fun than a game of Clue. The author has a science background, worked as a lab technician, and served as editor and press officer at the National Research Council of Canada before turning to mystery writing. Sleuth Morgan O'Brien travels to Mauna Kea to seek the missing data notebooks of a Canadian astronomer who appears to have committed suicide. Research rivalries and secrets from the Cold War era obscure the investigation; scientific discovery is the core of the conundrum. Will you be able to solve the puzzle before the author reveals all?