Where to Get Schooled in Astronomy on Hawaii Island

Where to Get Schooled in Astronomy on Hawaii Island

The sky’s not the limit for Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a birthday party, new exhibits and monthly programs By: Marty Wentzel
<p>Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii’s interactive exhibits appeal to all ages. // © 2016 Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii</p><p>Feature image...

Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii’s interactive exhibits appeal to all ages. // © 2016 Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

Feature image (above): Imiloa's cone-shaped roofs are inspired by Hawaii Island's volcanoes. // © 2016 Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

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The Details

Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii

When Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii opened in 2006, it aimed to blend science with Hawaiian culture in a way that everyday guests could understand and appreciate. Now, as it celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016, the attraction — based in Hilo on Hawaii Island — is coming up with exciting new ways to share its message.

“Few places in the world are better suited than Hawaii for exploring the intersection of world-class science and indigenous culture,” said Kaiu Kimura, executive director of Imiloa. 

The center’s interactive exhibits, 3-D digital planetarium and programs and events engage visitors in the wonders of Hawaii’s science, technology and culture. Outside, its innovative landscape features indigenous, endemic and introduced plant species, including a few that are rare and endangered.

A major focus of the center is the island’s dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. Not only is Mauna Kea a culturally significant Hawaiian site, but its 13,796-foot-high summit lays claim to the world’s largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes funded by 11 countries.

Anniversary Celebration and New Exhibits
On Feb. 21, Imiloa will kick off its new decade with a birthday party. Visitors and locals are invited to participate in a full day of free activities and entertainment to celebrate the center’s mission and the fulfillment of its first 10 years. 

Throughout 2016, new offerings will include a comprehensive, interactive exhibit about Mauna Kea. Displays will cover the volcano’s cultural importance, natural resources and role in ongoing social movements in the Hawaiian community.

Also this year, Imiloa is launching the Imiakea Event Series. The monthly program will highlight different aspects of Mauna Kea, with intimate evening performances by guest speakers and presenters. Clients can also take part in hands-on workshops with artists and local experts, as well as daylong programs with family-friendly activities.

Visitors in 2016 will see upgrades to Imiloa’s exhibit hall. Recently, it added mini virtual reality environments, where clients can interact with a range of content, from astronomy to marine science. 

Other new exhibits include the WorldWide Telescope. An interactive exhibit, it lets visitors virtually voyage through the universe while exploring worlds and information made possible by many of the observatories atop Mauna Kea.   

Looking Ahead
Moving forward, watch for Imiloa to continue turning heads with its full-dome planetarium, which transports viewers from the night sky over the Earth to the surface of Mars and beyond. Embraced by six-channel surround sound, audiences find themselves propelled into orbit, touching the farthest edge of the known universe. 

The planetarium’s signature show, “Maunakea: Between Earth and Sky,” runs daily. Featured presentations are screened quarterly and monthly. Clients can stop by on certain Friday nights to catch the planetarium’s rock show, which features a soundtrack by Led Zeppelin.

As Imiloa heads into the next decade, it is beginning to tell its story — and the story of Mauna Kea — in a different way, Kimura says. 

“No longer are we looking at science and culture in opposition, or even side by side. Instead, we are exploring them as different facets of the same knowledge,” Kimura said. “This experience will greatly enhance the Hawaii experience for visitors and provide deeper meaning to all that Hawaii has to offer.”