The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station is located at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The station provides information about the observatories and astronomy on the mountain, as well as the cultural and natural history of the area. It is open to the public year-round and provides educational programs, guided tours, and public star parties. The station also provides an opportunity for visitors to experience the night sky with telescopes and binoculars.

Onizuka Center for International Astronomy

Support facilities for the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, USA
mountain houses

Dorms in the center

A view from the Onizuka International Astronomy Center Visitor Information Station on the ascent of Mauna Kea, taken from a Pu’u at the 9300-foot level.

The Onizuka Center for International Astronomyalso known as hale pohakuis a complex of equipment to support the telescopes and other instruments that make up the Mauna Kea Observatory on top Mauna Keain island of hawaii.


Some rustic cabins called Hale Pōhaku (meaning “stone house” in hawaiian language) were built by the Civil Conservation Corps on the south slope of Mauna Kea in the 1930s for hunters and other explorers. A rustic jeep track was built in 1964 under Gov. John A. Burns, and a small telescope determined that Mauna Kea would be the ideal location for an astronomical observatory. The Hale Pōhaku area was used as a building ground for the construction of observatories during the 1970s, and the road was realigned in 1975. A permanent complex of buildings was constructed in 1983, known as the Mid-Level Facility.


Astronaut Ellison Shoji Onizuka (1946-1986)

The mid-level facility has been renamed for the Hawaii-born astronaut Ellison Onizukawho died in Spaceship Challenger disaster in 1986. It is located at elevation of 9,300 feet (2,800 m), just south of the summit at 19°45′41″N 155°27′22″W / 19.76139°N 155.45611°W / 19.76139; -155.45611Coordinates: 19°45′41″N 155°27′22″W / 19.76139°N 155.45611°W / 19.76139; -155.45611drive up the Mauna Kea Access Road from saddle road (Route 200).

The center consists of dormitories with a capacity of 72 people, as well as a main building that houses shared facilities such as a dining hall, laundry room and common room. Astronomers or technicians typically spend up to 24 hours at Hale Pōhaku to acclimate to the altitude, before proceeding to the summit at nearly 14,000 feet (4,300 m). There is no entry into these support facilities for the general public. The center is operated by Institute of Astronomy of University of Hawaii.

The harsh conditions of the observatories require permanent maintenance, with technicians and construction workers being common residents. Originally, any astronomers wishing to use the observatory needed to stay at these facilities in order to be physically present during the nights they were assigned to use the telescopes. Although first-time users of observatories are still encouraged to travel to the summit to familiarize themselves with the instruments, most observations can now be made over the summit. Internet. Work is often done in teams, with a two-person team at the top and others connected by conference call in Hale Pōhaku, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, University of Hawaii at Manoaor researcher’s office.
WM Keck Observatory reported that 90% of observations were remote in 2002, many of their facilities in Waimeaon the plateau north of the mountain range, and automation allowed control from California.


stone tower with mountain

a traditional hawaiian altar at the saddle road near the Mauna Kea access road

Just below the support complex, a Visitor Information Desk on the 19°45′33″N 155°27′22″W / 19.75917°N 155.45611°O / 19.75917; -155.45611 (Onizuka Visitor Information Station), has its own parking lot for visitors. The VIS houses informative displays and shows videos that describe the history and work of the observatories, as well as the geology, ecology and cultural significance of Mauna Kea. Every night, it offers a stargazing program in which several small telescopes, up to 16 inches in diameter, are set up outside the building and visitors view various planets, star clusters, galaxies, nebulae and other features. interesting views of the night sky. A VIS staff member or volunteer usually presents a tour of stars and constellations, using a small laser to point out features in the sky. amateur astronomers they also come here to set up their own telescopes as the altitude is already high enough that the view is much better than at lower altitudes.

The Onizuka Center is at the end of the paved road, and as far as a typical car should go towards the summit. From 2010[update]visitors wishing to continue on the steep and winding gravel road to the summit are strongly recommended to bring four wheel drive vehicles with well maintained brakes. As conditions can change quickly, visitors are advised to obtain up-to-date information before going beyond the Visitor Information Station.

Those intending to visit the summit are also strongly advised to spend at least half an hour, and better three or four hours, at the mid-level in order to acclimatize to the higher elevation and thus reduce the possibility of suffering altitude sickness. Further down from the visitor station is a camp for construction workers. The three facilities are kept separate because scientists often work on the summit at night and need to sleep during the day, while construction and tours are restricted to daylight.

related sites

The Keck Observatory at the summit has a visitors’ gallery that is generally open between 10 am and 4 pm on weekdays, and free tours of the Subaru Telescope can be booked on its website, but otherwise only observatory staff and visiting scientists are allowed inside. of the observatory facilities. Some commercial tours continue from downtown to the summit daily from morning dusk before sunrise until closing to the public after sunset. From others Mauna Kea Recreation opportunities include Mauna Kea State Recreation Areaand the Mauna Kea trail which leads from the VIS through the Mauna Kea Ice Age Preserve to the summit. A small museum dedicated to Onizuka, scheduled to close in March 2016, is located in the kona international airport. The ʻImiloa Astronomy Center at the Hill at the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus includes a larger museum and planetary which is more easily accessible to visitors.


External Links

Source: Onizuka Center for International Astronomy

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