Look Through the Eyes of Mauna Kea

101 Things to Do (Big Island) - - TOURING -

The largest as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory in the world is lo­cated at the 13,796-foot sum­mit of Mauna Kea. Here, in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tists work with a so­phis­ti­cated ar­ray of tele­scopes to gather data about the vast ce­les­tial uni­verse.

The moun­tain cur­rently houses 13 work­ing tele­scopes, and plans have been an­nounced to build an­other, slated to be the largest on Earth. The new $1.2 bil­lion tele­scope will be built by a con­sor­tium of Cal­i­for­nia and Cana­dian univer­si­ties and will be ca­pa­ble of track­ing stars and gal­ax­ies some 13 bil­lion light years away.

Mauna Kea means “white moun­tain,” named for the snow that cov­ers its slopes. It is the high­est is­land moun­tain on Earth, ris­ing 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor. The view from the sum­mit is like step­ping out of an air­plane just above a bank of clouds.

The last stop be­fore the sum­mit is the Onizuka Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional As­tron­omy. Lo­cated at the 9,300-foot level, this is a good place to stop for a while to ac­cli­ma­tize for the rest of the trip. From there, it’s a 30-minute trip to the sum­mit nav­i­gat­ing a mostly un­paved road.

A guided tour of the sum­mit is the safest and most ed­u­ca­tional way to go. Sev­eral com­pa­nies con­duct tours, which can last seven or eight hours. Be­cause of the very thin air at the sum­mit, chil­dren un­der 16 years of age and peo­ple with res­pi­ra­tory, heart and se­vere over­weight con­di­tions are not ad­vised to go be­yond the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter.

• Hawai‘i For­est & Trail (808) 331-8505 • Mauna Kea Sum­mit Ad­ven­tures (808) 322-2366

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