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`Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

outside of `Imiloa Center

`Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii is located in Hilo. Photo by Paul Coleman.

`Imiloa means "exploring for knowledge." The name encompasses the dual nature of this world-class science center, which recently opened its doors to the public. The `Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii presents Hawaiian voyages of discovery (old and new) and explorations of the heavens that are occurring at the observatories on Mauna Kea.

From its inception, the vision of this center has been one of unity. Hawaiians call this kukulu kumuhana—the pooling of strengths for a common purpose. That purpose is to inform all those who come to the center, especially Hawaii's children, about two areas—the vibrant culture of the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and the constantly changing knowledge of our Universe.

Inside `Imiloa Center

Inside the `Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii. Photo by Paul Coleman.

The center explains Mauna Kea's unique and important roles for both the Kanaka Maoli and the astronomer. In Hawaiian tradition, Mauna Kea is a revered ancestor, to be treated with respect. For the astronomer, it is clearly the best location on Earth for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy.

The center is completely bilingual (Hawaiian and English). It is staffed primarily by volunteers, including Hawaiian language students from UH Hilo and from Hawaiian language immersion schools. The only real requirements for volunteering are enthusiasm and a strong work ethic. Other desirable qualifications include knowledge of Hawaiian culture, language, and history, and of astronomy and the scientific investigations taking place on Mauna Kea.

`Imiloa features interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, group tours, a store, a cafe, and a full schedule of events. The center plans to offer nighttime planetarium shows and talks similar to the AstroTalk series in Hilo and to the "Malalo I Ka Lani Po" and "The Universe Tonight" talks held at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station. Peter Michaud, public information and outreach manager for Gemini Observatory, conducted the first "Sky Tonight at `Imiloa" on May 27 in the center's top-of-the-line planetarium.

 I recently presented a talk on astronomy and astronomy-related jobs available in Hawai'i to a group of students and teachers from the Na Pua No'eau (Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children) program who spent a day at `Imiloa. Kalepa Baybayan, the navigator and captain of the traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokualaka`i, and John Hamilton, an instructor in the UH Hilo Physics and Astronomy Department, also participated in this day of learning.

`Imiloa will continue to showcase astronomy and Hawaiian culture for local, regional, and international audiences, and bring together members of the Hawaiian and astronomy communities. If you get a chance to visit the center, you will not be disappointed with this world-class tribute to Mauna Kea.

Paul Coleman is both an IfA astrophysicist and a Native Hawaiian, and was a content advisor for the center.

For more information on the center: