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AstroDay, Saturday May 4

by Roy Gal, IfA Astronomer and Outreach Coordinator

AstroDay Lego Robotics Discovery Zone

AstroDay Lego Robotics Discovery Zone. Photo courtesy of Gary Fujihara.

AstroDay is one of the biggest astronomy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) outreach events in Hawai‘i. Held annually on the first Saturday in May at the Prince Kūhiō Plaza Mall in Hilo, it brings together the public, observatories, robotics, and other Hawai‘i Island organizations for a day of fun, family activities, and education. This year, the event will be May 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Originally started in 1973 by the Astronomy League, Astronomy Day is a movement to share the joy of astronomy with everyone. Our AstroDay was founded in 2002 by Gary Fujihara, who was then a telescope operator at Subaru and is now IfA’s Hawai‘i Island science education and outreach officer. Today, AstroDay is organized by Fujihara, the IfA, and the Mauna Kea Astronomy Outreach Committee. We anticipate that 5,000 or more visitors will attend this great event.

What can you expect at AstroDay? Lots of fun! There will be robotics demonstrations, cameras that see light wavelengths invisible to our eyes, planetarium shows in a portable planetarium, and telescopes to check out. There are door prizes and raffles for astronomical and scientific goodies. Following the opening ceremonies, there will be live music at center stage throughout the day. Performers will include John Keawe, Keoki Kahumoku, Rupert Tripp, Jr., the UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra’s Pathology band, and Puna Taiko Drumming.

Exhibitors include the IfA, Thirty Meter Telescope, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, the Joint Astronomy Center, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the Hilo Astronomy Club, the UH Heliophysics Outreach Group, STARBASE Hawaii (an outreach program of the Department of Defense designed to improve STEM skills and knowledge in fifth graders), Subaru Telescope, the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, and more.

Attendees will have the opportunity to obtain a coin specially minted based on the winning design from this year’s Mauna Kea Coin Contest. All Hawai‘i Island K–12 students were invited to enter the contest, which closed on March 15. They were asked to design a coin that features both astronomy and Hawaiian cultural themes. The winning design will be chosen by a four-person panel of judges that includes two astronomers and two Hawaiian cultural practitioners. The overall winner’s coin will be minted, and AstroDay attendees will be able to get one for free by visiting specific AstroDay booths, completing activities, and getting a special “passport” stamped.

We hope to see you there.