New Astronomy Center on Big Island

Justina Mattos
Justina Mattos

Hawaii island is not only home to world class observatories, it is also home to a science center that has kids looking to the stars and to past.

You can see from the outside, that the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai`i is different than many other science centers, three large domes make up this facility.

"They represent the 3 largest mountains on Hawaii, Mauna kea, Mauna loa and Hualalai, and it ties in the earth and sky." says Justina Mattos, 'Imiloa's Cultural Coordinator.

Mauna kea the tallest mountain on Hawaii island, is world renowned as a place for astronomy. That is reflected in 'Imiloa's hands on exhibits , teaching visitors about the universe, and what we have learned from looking to space.

But at this science center, there are also lessons from ancient astronomers. "We have some things that local kids may be interested in, like navigation across the pacific without instruments." adds Mattos.

Hawaiians and Polynesians used the stars to make those journeys and those sky watching skills are showcased at 'Imiloa.

This new multi-million dollar facility also features a planetarium as well as classrooms for learning. And while it is open to everyone, the center hopes to make the greatest impact on young minds. "The main target area is 6th-to-9th grader, right when they are developing their thoughts on what they want to do when they grow up."

This center shows Hawaii's youth do not have to choose between science or Hawaiian culture, instead the two can be combined in future careers.

"They can be strongly rooted in their culture and be an astronomer on top of Mauna Kea or a voyager and hold onto their culture at the same time.

The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center is located above the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus and is open six days a week. And there is more to see than just what is inside the center. Outside is an award-winning landscape featuring only native, indigenous, and Polynesian-introduced plants.