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'Imiloa celebrates first birthday

The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo explores the connections between Hawaiian culture and astronomy.
Katie Neubauer
'Imiloa Astronomy Center's three titanium cones represent the three volcanoes on the Big Island — Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai.
Robert Crowe/'Imiloa
'Imiloa Astronomy Center's three titanium cones represent the three volcanoes on the Big Island — Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai.
Robert Crowe/'Imiloa
March 29, 2007
It isn't often that a museum about native Hawaiian culture shares the same space as a planetarium. But the two are exactly what the creators of the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i aimed to bring together when they envisioned their 40,000-square-foot learning center, opened one year ago this month. Situated on 9 acres near the University of Hawaii-Hilo, 'Imiloa gives visitors "dual stories" of the famed Mauna Kea volcano, including its astronomical heritage, as well as the traditional Hawaiian culture surrounding it.

Astronomy played an important role in the culture of ancient Polynesians — the stars were invaluable navigational tools as well as religious symbols. The astronomical tradition of ancient people continues today, as Mauna Kea is one of astronomy's foremost research sites. The volcano's summit is home to some of the world's most advanced telescopes, including the Subaru, Keck I and II, and Gemini. Through a variety of planetarium shows, interactive exhibits, and tours, 'Imiloa is both a cultural museum and world-class planetarium.
Visitors enjoy 'Imiloa's full-dome planetarium shows.
Richard Crowe/'Imiloa
The full-dome, 52-foot planetarium was funded, in part, by NASA and uses Digistar-3 full-dome, immersive video, with six projectors and surround sound. Audiences are guaranteed a state-of-the-art planetarium experience. Planetarium shows include four programs in rotation, including "One Ocean, One Sky," which details Polynesian voyaging using celestial navigation, and "Mauna Kea: Between Earth and Sky," which has audiences simultaneously peering back to the beginning of time and deep into space. In addition to these features, the planetarium offers a Saturday morning children's program, "Secret of the Cardboard Rocket," that takes students on a trip through the solar system. The last Saturday of every month, the "Sky Tonight" program gives visitors an in-depth tour of the night sky.

To kick off the March 4 "Community Day" birthday festivities, 'Imiloa's Cultural Landscape Curator Hokuo Pelligrino offered a new Native Landscape Tour, a 45-minute walk among more than 50 types of indigenous plant species on the Center's grounds.
Planetarium shows include "Mauna Kea: Between Earth and Sky," a look at the connections between Hawaiian culture and astronomy.
Richard Crowe/'Imiloa
Future plans for 'Imiloa include a planetarium program for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), which will be made possible by partnerships with several other world-class planetariums, as well as laser light shows and music concerts beginning in late 2007 or early 2008.

One year since its inception, 'Imiloa remains a popular tourist destination among families and astronomers alike. With the beauty of the natural landscape, the thrill of the state-of-the-art planetarium, and the hands-on, kid-friendly exhibits, 'Imiloa will continue to attract visitors for years to come.
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