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Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the launch of their incredible, affordable, fabulous new Hawaii Travel iPhone/iPod Touch App

Tour Guide Hawaii's Brand New iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts Paradise in the Palm of Your Hand!
Tour Guide Hawaii’s Brand New iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts Paradise in the Palm of Your Hand!

Navigate to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; effortlessly find hikes, snorkel spots, historical and cultural landmarks, shopping and dining.  And of course, our new App includes directions to, and rating of, all the public restrooms! Learn all about it, here. In addition to real GPS navigation, this app also allows you to navigate using Google Maps or, if no internet or phone service available, with on-board maps and driving directions! Our App is crammed full of entertaining and informative video presentations about how and where to snorkel, the best trails and beaches, what to pack to bring to Hawaii, cultural orientation and language tips!

Using the Tour Guide Hawaii iPhone/iPod Touch App will save you time, save you money and allow you to see and do more with your Hawaii vacation; this quick video tells you how.

Interested in seeing what kind of information our App contains?  In celebration of the release of our new App, we proudly present this list of blogs and web articles on Hawaii Travel, with URLs, of the unique and comprehensive Tour Guide Hawaii content.  Enjoy this free information at your leisure, and order your App from iTunes, today!

Tour Guide Hawaii proudly presents the best, the most interesting, the most comprehensive material on Hawaii travel ever gathered in one place!

Best About Planning Your Hawaii Trip

What To Pack And Take To Hawaii: What You Need, What You Want, What You Can Leave Out Of Your Luggage: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/what-to-pack-and-take-to-hawaii-what-you-need-what-you-want-what-you-can-leave-out-of-your-luggage/

Getting To Hawaii, Getting Around Hawaii, Getting the Most From Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/getting-to-and-getting-around-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Frank’s Guide to Pronouncing Hawaiian Words: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/franks-guide-to-pronouncing-the-hawaiian-langauge/

Best Beaches on Hawaii

A Quick Guide to The Best Beaches of Hawaii Island: Sun, Surf, Solitude: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/the-top-beaches-of-hawaii-island/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 1, The Main Kohala Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-1-the-main-kohala-coast/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 2, The Kona and South Kohala Coasts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-2-the-kona-and-south-kohala-coasts/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 3, Unusual, Uncrowded and Untamed Beaches of South Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-3-unusual-uncrowded-and-untamed-beaches-of-south-hawaii/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 4, Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-4-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-island/

Best Beaches in Hawaii Part 5–Best Beaches for Snorkeling: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-5-best-beaches-for-snorkeling/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii

My Favorite Scenic Drive: Hawaii’s Wild and Scenic Saddle Road!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/my-favorite-scenic-drive-hawaiis-wild-and-scenic-saddle-road/

Big Island Whirlwind Road Trip: I have to see the whole Big Island all in one day!https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/big-island-whirlwind-road-trip-i-have-to-see-the-whole-big-island-all-in-one-day/

Kona Heritage Corridor Scenic Drive: An Exceptional Day Trip Exploration of Historical, Lovely, Up-Country Kona!:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/kona-heritage-corridor-scenic-drive-an-exceptional-day-trip-exploration-of-historical-lovely-up-country-kona/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #1: The Saddle Road…Kona to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Kaumana Cave and Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-1-the-saddle-road-kona-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-kaumana-cave-and-hilo/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #2: North Kona and Kohala, Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-2-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #3: Kona to Hamakua and Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-3-kona-to-hamakua-and-hilo/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #4: Kona Coast to South Point and Ka’u https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-4-kona-coast-to-south-point-and-kau/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #5: Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Puna and Lava Viewing: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-5-kailua-kona-to-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puna-and-lava-viewing/

New iPhone/iPod Touch App Helps you Explore Hawaii’s Hidden, Romantic and Mysterious Places: The South Coast of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-explore-hawaiis-hidden-romantic-and-mysterious-places-the-south-coast-of-hawaii/

Road Trip Through Keauhou Historic District, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/wwwtourguidehawaicom-presents-a-road-trip-through-keauhou-historic-district-big-island-hawaii/

Best About Hiking:

The Best Short Hikes on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-best-short-hikes-on-hawaii-island/

The Adventure and Romance of Hiking To Kilauea Volcano’s Active Lava Flows: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/tour-guide-hawaii-presents-the-adventure-and-romance-of-hiking-to-kilauea-volcanos-active-lava-flows/

Exploring the Summit Hikes of Mauna Kea: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/exploring-the-summit-hikes-of-mauna-kea-hawaii/

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/south-points-justly-famous-green-sand-beach-hike-papakolea-bay-and-mahana-beach-hawaii/

Hiking to Captain Cook Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/hiking-to-captain-cook-monument-on-the-kona-coast-of-hawaii/

Hiking Hawaii’s Magnificent Waipi’o Valley: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/hiking-hawaiis-magnificent-waipio-valley/

Hiking Down Into Pololu Valley, Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/hiking-down-into-pololu-valley-big-island-of-hawaii/

Kiholo Bay Beach Hike: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/kiholo-bay-beach-hike/

Hiking to Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/hiking-to-honomalino-bay-big-island-hawaii/

Historic Kailua Kona Town on the Big Island of Hawaii: A Walking Tour: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/historic-kailua-kona-town-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii-a-walking-tour/

Hiking and Camping at Hawaii’s Last Wilderness Beach: La’amaomao the Wind God and Makalawena Beach: Advice: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/hiking-and-camping-at-hawaiis-last-wilderness-beach-laamaomao-the-wind-god-and-makalawena-beach/

Driving and Hiking to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/advice-driving-and-hiking-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-big-island-of-hawaii/

Hidden Secrets of Hawaii: The Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/hidden-secrets-of-hawaii-the-golden-ponds-of-ke-awa-iki/

Hiking at Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/hiking-at-kilauea-volcano-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/hiking-the-kilauea-iki-trail-new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-find-all-the-unique-secluded-unusual-destinations-on-hawaii/

Best About Snorkeling

The Best Snorkeling Spots on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/the-best-snorkeling-spots-on-hawaii-island/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part I: Gear: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-i-gear-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part II: Technique : https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-ii-technique-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part III: Protecting the Reef and Reef Animals: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iii-reef-etiquette-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part IV: Snorkeling Safety: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iv-snorkeling-safety-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part V: Best Snorkeling Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-v-best-snorkeling-beaches-of-the-big-island-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips Part VI: Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-vi-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-islanda/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #1: Introduction: Kona Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/franks-big-island-travel-hints-1-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #2: Kona South to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/franks-big-island-travel-hints-2-kona-coast-south-of-honaunau-to-kau/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints # 3: Kona North to Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/1794/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #4: Waikoloa to Pololu Valley; https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/franks-big-island-travel-hints-4-waikoloa-to-pololu-valley-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #5: Hawi to Kona via the Kohala Mountain road, Waimea and Waikoloa: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/franks-big-island-travel-hints-5-hawi-to-kona-via-kohala-mountain-road-waimea-and-waikoloa-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #6: Waimea and the Hamakua Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/franks-big-island-travel-hints-6-waimea-and-the-hamakua-coast-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints # 7: Around Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/franks-big-island-travel-hints-7-hilo-side-akaka-falls-to-panaewa-rainforest-zoo/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #8: Mysterious Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/franks-big-island-travel-hints-8-mysterious-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #9: Made for Adventure: The Jungles, Volcanoes, Hot Springs and Tidepools of Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/franks-hawaii-travel-hints-9-made-for-adventure-the-jungles-volcanoes-hot-springs-and-tidepools-of-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #10: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/franks-big-island-travel-hints-10-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Frank’s Travel Hints # 11: Exploring Deeper Into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/franks-big-island-travel-hints-11-exploring-deeper-into-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #12: More fun in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/franks-big-island-travel-hints-12-more-fun-in-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #13: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Chain of Craters Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/franks-big-island-travel-hints-13-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-chain-of-craters-road/

Best Interesting Stories and General Reading about Hawaii

The Beautiful, Enigmatic and Cryptic Petroglyphs of Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/the-beautiful-enigmatic-and-cryptic-petroglyphs-of-hawaii-island/

Hawaii’s Amazing Lava Fossils: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/hawaiis-amazing-lava-fossils/

The Sugar Industry in Hawaii: Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/the-sugar-industry-in-hawaii-kona-sugar-company-and-west-hawai%E2%80%99i-railway-company/

Captain Cook’s Legacy: Exploring the History and Waters of Kealakekua Bay: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/949/

Kilauea’s Eruption Just Keeps Getting More Fantastic!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/wwwtourguidehawaiicom-presents-new-video-of-kilauea-volcano-erupting/

Kalapana, Hawaii: From the Fires of Hades to the Eden of Rebirth: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/kalapana-hawaii-from-the-fires-of-hades-to-the-eden-of-rebirth/

Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/823/

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles: Honu of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/hawaiis-magnificent-honu-the-endangered-hawaiian-green-sea-turtle/

Heartbreak of the Gods: Kuamo’o Battle Field and Lekeleke Graveyard: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/heartbreak-of-the-gods-kuamoo-batlle-field-and-lekeleke-graveyard-big-island-of-hawaii/

A Brief History of Ranching in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/rodeo-to-rock-and-roll-a-brief-history-of-ranching-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Ahu’ena Heiau at Kamakahonu Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/konas-fascinating-history-ahuena-heiau-at-kamakahonu-beach/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Moku’aikaua Church–the First Christian Church in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/konas-fscinating-history-mokuaikawa-the-first-christian-church-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Hulihe’e Palace: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/konas-fscinating-history-hulihee-palace/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Kamakahonu Rock, the Kailua Pier and Seawall: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/konas-fascinating-history-kamakahonu-rock-the-kailua-pier-and-seawall/

Rising From The Past: The Rebirth of Hapaiali’i Heiau, a Hawaiian Temple for Honoring Royalty: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/1118/

The Hawaiian Snow Goddess Poliahu and the Summit of Mauna Kea…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/the-hawaiian-snow-goddess-poliahu-and-the-summit-of-mauna-kea/

Mo’okini Heiau: Warrior Kings and Human Sacrifice on Hawai’i: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/mookini-heiau-warrior-kings-and-human-sacrifice-on-hawaii-2/

The Call of Aloha…:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/the-call-of-aloha/

Why I love Hawaii…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/why-i-love-hawaii/

Hilo Askance: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/hilo-askance/

Conjuring Visions of Paradise: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/conjuring-visions-of-paradise/

Volcano Art Center—A Kipuka of Creativity on the Rim of Madam Pele’s Home: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/volcano-art-center-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/jagger-museum-hawaii-volcanoes-national-rark/

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by Donald B. MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Koholo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Kohola: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.

Even choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at couple hikes you might otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Donnie’s Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today, I’d like to take you to the top of Mauna Kea. At 13, 796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea’s summit is the highest point in the State of Hawaii; since its base lies at 19000 feet below sea level, its has a base-to-summit height of 33,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain on earth. It’s also one of my most favorite places on earth.

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea began forming on the sea floor about one million years ago. Its name means “White Mountain” in the Hawaiian language and it is snowcapped much of the winter, and the summit is covered with permafrost 35 feet deep. During the ice ages, Mauna Kea’s summit was glaciated 3 times, starting about 200000 years ago and ending only 11000 years ago. One can see the U-shaped valleys and cirques, striated bedrock, glacial tills covering the summit area and remnants of ice-damned lava flows from those times. There are even the remains of extinct rock glaciers near the summit.

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Visitor’s Center and summit are reached via a road which turns off Saddle Road at about 6600 feet elevation near the 28 mile marker and tortuously stumbles its way up the south side of Mauna Kea to the Visitor Information Station at about 9300 feet. The road, though steep, is paved to the Visitor’s Center. Above that, the road is graded dirt for about 5 miles, returning to asphalt paving for the final sprint to the rim of the summit crater. Road conditions for the summit road are available at 808.935.6263.

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The visitor’s center is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. 365 days a year. Informational multimedia presentations, souvenirs, and some food items are available here, as well as clean restrooms and drinking water. Every evening after dark the center allows visitors to stargaze through several telescopes and informational talks by visiting scientists are occasionally scheduled. Saturday and Sunday Center staff lead escorted summit field trips, but visitors must provide their own vehicle. Call 808.961.2180 for information. It is suggested that summit-bound visitors stop at the Visitor’s Center for at least half an hour before heading to the summit so they can acclimate.

Above the Visitor Information Station there are no public accommodations, no water or food and no gasoline service; the observatory buildings are closed to the public and usually locked. There are neither public telephones nor restrooms, only port-a-potties. An emergency phone is located in the entrance to the U of H 2.2 meter Telescope building.

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving the summit road to the very top of Mauna Kea is neither as dangerous as the car rental companies want you to believe, nor as casual as many Big Island residents will tell you. True, the summit road is unpaved most of the way, it is steep and winding with limited view planes; the road is extremely hazardous when wet or icy, which is often, and it’s subject to frequent dense clouds, snow, rain and fog obscuring all vision. Also, balmy summer conditions may turn into lethal winter rages in minutes with little or no warning.

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, the road is generously wide, routinely graded and poses no real threat to the cautious driver. The safe driver can expect to reach the summit in about ½ an hour after leaving the Visitor Information Station. Remember, it’s not the roughness of the road that will impede your car; it’s the elevation that will starve it for oxygen. To be safe, take as much time winding your way back down the mountain as you took coming up, using the lowest gear to save wear on brakes. Check your car rental agreement–many forbid you to drive this road. If you go anyway, your insurance is void, and you do so at considerable financial risk. Remember, people DO crater their cars on occasion.

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If the weather turns frightful, simply head down immediately. Relax, be calm and drive carefully; you can be confident that, even if you have to slow to 10 miles per hour in places, you’ll be down to the safety of the Visitor’s Center in a mere 40 minutes or so.

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea, hosting the largest assemblage of astronomical instruments and telescopes in the world, is truly an amazing place; a seductive juxtaposition of icy heights raised up from steaming tropical jungle; the age-old altars of sacred Hawai’ian gods alongside edifices of the most modern of sciences; of frigid landscapes carved during ancient ice-ages alongside fiery volcanic landforms; all wrapped around a fabulous trip with a wee rumor of danger, just for spice! Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island also include the islands of Maui, Kaho’olawe and Lana’i on clear days. The glow from Kilauea Volcano can be seen on clear nights. Although daytime temperatures during the summer can peak in the 60s, it is generally cold-to-frigid, frequently wet and very windy on the summit. Plan and dress accordingly.

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit area is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians, hosting many religious Heiau, an obsidian adze quarry and numerous other archaeological sites. Remember this landscape, and the archeological sites upon them, are sacred; take nothing but photographs, don’t even leave footprints. Some ruminations on the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, and personal reflections about the summit of Mauna Kea can be found here.

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Parking is limited, but the hike from the top of the road to the actual summit is a must for any who have ventured this far and are in good shape. A stone altar and a USGS survey point mark the actual summit of the mountain, about a 15 minute walk up a cinder trail from the top of the road. A trail leading around the summit crater takes about 30 minutes to trek and traverses some very wild country with amazing views. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and hydrate frequently to help stave off altitude sickness. Do not leave the safety of the parking lot if you are feeling ill or the weather is at all chancy—in fact, in deteriorating or poor weather, or at the onset of queasiness, one should leave the summit immediately and descend.

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Alternately, for those in excellent physical condition, one can hike to the summit from the Visitor’s center. Featuring unparalleled views, wild landscapes, archeological sites and more, the hike is about 6 miles in length, gains about 4500 feet in elevation and takes 6 to 10 hours to get up, depending on the hiker. There is no water available anywhere above the Visitor’s Center, so take enough to get up, and back down. Frankly, many people opt to hitch-hike down the mountain after hiking up. In fact, for folks short on time, or for whom scenery and not summit-conquering are the main goals, catching a ride to the summit and hiking down is a great alternative, and takes only about 3 1/2 hours.

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Another absolutely stunning hike in the summit area, one that is accessible to nearly anybody in reasonable condition, is to Lake Wai’au. Park at either the lot at about 12000 feet, near the 5 mile marker, or the lot at about 13000 feet, near the 7 mile marker. Needless to say, one hike is uphill in and the other is uphill out; but both are less than a mile long and have similar elevation changes. I prefer the upper trail because the view of the summit astronomical complex on the hike out is phenomenal. An absolute jewel of an alpine tarn in its own right, at 13,020 feet Lake Wai’au is one of the highest permanent lakes in the world…permafrost seals the lake bed in the loose tephra and glacial drift on which it sits. It’s about 300′ by 150′ by 8 feet deep and, yes, I personally can vouch for its having been snorkeled. Not much to see in there, though.

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are a few health concerns about visiting the summit of Mauna Kea as well. In brief: children under 16, pregnant women, and people with respiratory, heart, or severe overweight conditions are advised not to go higher than the Visitors Information Station. Scuba divers must wait at least 24 hours after their last dive before traveling to the summit.

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Acute mountain sickness, resulting from exposure to high altitude, includes nausea, headache, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and poor judgment.  Aspirin and lots of water are palliatives for altitude sickness, but the cure is immediate and rapid descent. Sufferers will notice almost complete cessation of symptoms upon regaining The Saddle. Altitude sickness can be dangerous, even life threatening, and rapid onset of comatose condition, or even death, may be unexpectedly swift.

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, there is severe risk of serious sunburn and eye damage, particularly when there is snow on the ground. Be sure to wear sunglasses rated to at least 90% IR and 100% UV (both UVA and UVB); wear sunscreen rated to at least SPF 30. Long sleeves and pants help reduce the susceptibility to sunburn.

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Most visits to Mauna Kea’s summit are extremely pleasant experiences, encompassing easy adventures which may feature mild altitude euphoria, fabulous views and a great sense of relief at reaching the paved road and public restrooms at the Visitor’s Information Station after leaving the summit.

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The recently restored Hapaiali’i Heiau (Temple for Elevating Chiefs), a heiau associated with ceremonies involving changes in rank of Ali’i, lies on the grounds of the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort, across the narrow tidal inlet from Ke’eku Heiau. Until recently, the temple appeared to be noting more than a disorganized pile of rocks in a tangle of mangrove and keawe.  Not much is known about this Heiau and oral traditions in the area are contradictory; some local stories hold that it predates Ke’eku Heiau; other family traditions maintain it was built around 1812 by Kamehameha the Great.  During restoration, carbon dating of material recovered indicated that the Heaiu may have been erected, or substantially rebuilt, between 1411 and 1465.  According to cultural kahuna overseeing the reconstruction it took thousands of commoners about 10 years to build the original temple.

The Ruins of Hapaiali'i Heaiu in Spring 2006, Before Reconstruction; Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Ruins of Hapaiali'i Heaiu in Spring 2006, Before Reconstruction; Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The temple was reconstructed by using survey maps made of the area in 1906 and 1952 and currently measures 100 feet by 150 feet.  Completely surrounded by the sea at high tide and constructed entirely by dry-stack masonry, this reconstruction reminds us of the engineering sophistication of the Hawai’ians and the grandeur and beauty of the temples they erected.

Hapaiali'i Heiau During Reconstruction; note Ke'eku Heiau in Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapaiali'i Heiau During Reconstruction; note Ke'eku Heiau in Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

During the restoration project, funded by Kamehameha Schools, it was discovered that Hapaiali’i Heiau also served as a solar calendar.  On the winter solstice, from a vantage point directly behind the temples center stone, the sun sets directly off the southwest corner of the heiau; at the vernal equinox, the sun sets directly along the centerline of the temple and at summer  solstice, it sets off the northwest corner.  If you are visiting Hawaii during any of these seasons it is worth the trip to Hapaiali’i Heiau to see how well this ancient astronomical observatory still serves its function.  More information about the Keauhou Historic District can be found by visiting the Keauhou Kahalu’u Heritage Center at the Keauhou Shopping Center, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vog Tinged Sunset around Winter Solstice at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Vog Tinged Sunset around Winter Solstice at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Kahalu’u Beach, walk onto the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort property through the gateway in the fence between them and follow the asphalt path to the pool deck, through the lobby of the resort and join the paved path that runs along the end of the Resort driveway. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive to the paved path that runs along the end of the driveway. Following along this path, one passes Punawai Spring first, then, where the path runs around the end of the tennis courts the homesite of the Mo’o Twins. Continuing on the path until it ends at a large tidal pool, the Hapaiali’i Heiau is immediately between you and the ocean.  Across the tidal pool is the equally fascinating Ke’eku Heiau and the nearly deserted Makole’a black sand beach.  Take a moment to stroll south and seaward over the tidal flats from Ke’eku Heiau and search out the large and fascinating petroglyph field at low tide (more information here). Remember that these are holy religious sites to modern native Hawai’ians; to not trespass, walk or climb on the temple proper; take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and exploring the ancient temples of the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Video written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; all media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan, all rights reserved.

Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The view of Mauna Loa from the Shrine at Pu'u Weiku on the Summit of Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Polynesians encountered the snow goddess, Poliahu, for the first time when they reached the Big Island of Hawaii sometime in the Fourth Century C.E. and beheld the snow-clad summits of the great volcanoes. The eldest daughter of the sky god Kane, Poliahu is said to have created the verdant, tropical beauty of the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island; its lushness, clear, cold streams and lovely waterfalls a perfect playground for her to indulge in her favorite pass-time–cavorting with human men.

Though she regularly visits Haleakala on Maui and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, Mauna Kea–in Hawaiian the “White Mountain”–is rightly considered the home of Poliahu. The prominent surviving myth about the Goddess Poliahu involves her besting the Volcano Goddess, Pele, at the Hawaiian sledding sport of “he’eholua”. So angry was Pele at being defeated that she attacked Poliahu with streams of glowing lava. Poliahu retaliated by bringing down storms of snow to freeze the molten rock in place. The goddesses fought each other to a standstill, although the sledding defeat has always rankled Pele. Even now as she dominates at Kilauea, Pele submits to Poliahu’s rule on Mauna Kea; still, to this day, Pele is said to dispute with Poliahu over Mauna Loa.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers on the Summit Ridge of Mauna Kea; Mauna Loa in the Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mythology aside, Mauna Kea’s summit is an exciting, fascinating place. A dormant shield volcano which hasn’t erupted for about 4500 years, Mauna Kea is 13,803 feet tall, the highest point in the state of Hawaii. Because the summit rises some 33,476 feet above its base on the sea floor, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on earth. All this mass, this huge bulk of a mountain has grown in fewer than a million years–geologically the blink of an eye. Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features and a few remnant rock glaciers near the summit. In addition, the summit area is home to Lake Waiau, the seventh highest lake in the United States. Also on the summit block is the largest, and most modern collection of international astronomical observatories located anywhere on earth.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Summit of Mauna Kea Contains a Small Metropolis of the Most Modern and Sophisticated Astronomical Telescopes and Observatories in the World: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

I love visiting the summit of Mauna Kea–whether I spend the day hiking the six-mile trail to the top or I drive to the end of the road for the 10 minute walk up the summit at Pu’u Weiku. I spend hours and hours watching the clouds, listening to the silence, soaking up the island-wide vistas. I’m not sure what draws me out of the tropical torpor of Kona, time and again, to the summit of Mauna Kea–maybe the exhilaration of altitude and the crisp, clean air, or the opportunities for snow-play, solitude; perhaps unconsciously I hope to see one of the legendary cat-fights between Pele and Poliahu, fire and ice.

Secretly, deep down, I suspect that honestly I am just hoping to become yet another in the long, long line of human men that Poliahu has chosen to, ahem, cavort with.

For more information about traveling to the Hawaii in general and touring the Big ISland in particular, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  For a video about hiking up Mauna Kea, go here.  For information about the author, please go here.

Hilo Side: Akaka Falls to Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

On your way back to the highway, stop in Honomu for some local-style shopping and a snack. Handmade curios and ice creams will delight your senses. Once back on Highway 19, turn right toward Hilo, about 10 minutes away.

Hilo is one of the wettest cities in the U.S. averaging around 200 inches per year. This old-style Hawaii town is quaint and bustling. Lots of great shops line the waterfront drive and the largest farmer’s market on the island is situated there as well. Tour Guide will take you right into the heart of town and give you history and attractions, such as the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and the Imiloa Astronomy Center at the University of Hawaii, Hilo Campus. A little farther along the coast are some beautiful beach parks like Richardson and Onekahakaha. Great picnicking, swimming and some good snorkeling can be found here. The Suisan Fish Market is famous for the early morning old-style fish auction. Be sure to take your time in Hilo as the shopping food options are immense.

In Hilo, you will turn north onto Highway. 11 at the intersection near Ken’s Pancake House, a landmark eatery. You will see the airport and Prince Kuhio Plaza on your way out of town. Stop in and visit the mall and shop and eat if you missed it in town. Just a few miles north of the mall is the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Tour Guide will tell you how this is the only rainforest zoo in North America. It is also free.

Super Tip: Gasoline in Hilo is typically 6-10 cents per gallon cheaper because it is the main port on the island. It is wise to fill up before heading back to Kona.

This completes this drive day. I suggest returning north through Hilo and back up the Hamakua Coast, through Waimea, and Highway 190 back to Kona.

For further information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Reprinted for here.

PLANETS AND THE SUMMER MILKY WAY

The interesting thing about sky-watching is the fact that although the seasonal constellations are predictable, what you may see at any designated time is not. Planetary movement and other recurring events take place on different cycles than the background of stars so we can’t always count on seeing the same combination of sights in the sky at the same times. That keeps me in business.

So what we will see in the sky this July is not unusual, but a fortunate arrangement of celestial constituents that will be easy and convenient to view. Four naked-eye planets dot the evening skies this month, with two staging a nice pairing together and beautiful Venus making its reappearance back into the night. Although it might be challenging to spot Venus low in the western sky after sunset during the first half of the month, by the end of the July it will be climbing higher out of the light and easier to spot.

A nice highlight will be the conjunction of Mars and Saturn in the constellation Leo on July 9 and 10. The rust-colored planet and pale yellow Saturn have been slowly creeping closer over the past weeks and will be at their closest on those two dates (although the 10th is technically the closest date, both nights are good for viewing). Included in the lineup is the brightest star in Leo, Regulus, which is on that planet highway called the ecliptic. As a bonus, on July 5 a small crescent Moon joins the group as Mars closes in. That evening going from west to east, you can see the Moon next to the star Regulus, followed by Mars and Saturn. Make sure you start early however, because this gathering will set by 10:00 P.M.

Jupiter is also impressive in the east as the sun sets. The giant planet is at opposition now, meaning that it is on the opposite side of our sky than the sun (think “Sun, Earth, Jupiter” in that order). It appears bigger and brighter in the night sky at this time and is visible in the sky the whole night. Now would be a great time to take out a pair of binoculars and look for the famous features that characterize Jupiter, like the Galilean satellites and the distinct bands of color on the planet. The monster hurricane, the Great Red Spot, is visible with telescopes but not necessarily with average binoculars.

While the planets steal the spotlight this month, don’t forget to pay attention to the summer Milky Way! The hazy band of light extending from north to south is part of the galaxy we reside in and offers many binocular and telescopic sights along the way. The area roughly between Scorpius’ stinger and Sagittarius’ “spout” is particularly wide since that direction is the bulbous center of our galaxy, approximately 26,000 light years away. Rather than individual points of light we see the accumulation of the millions of stars obscured by gas and dust. Right now you can see the Milky Way stretching from the southwest in the direction of the Southern Cross (early in the evening) through the Summer Triangle toward Perseus in the northeast in the early morning hours.

EVENING PROGRAM UPDATE

With so many objects to look for in the skies, it’s difficult to cram everything into one article every month. Consider our planetarium as the next best thing to the real sky, one with a personal “guide” to the stars. An evening program is held on the first Fridays of the month, with sky viewing if the weather is clear. However since it falls on the 4th of July this month, the program has been moved to Friday, July 11. It begins promptly at 8:00 P.M. and reservations are strongly recommended. Call 848-4168.

PHOENIX UPDATE

The Phoenix lander is busily performing its tasks since touchdown on Mars a little over a month ago. What the mission has already done for space exploration was demonstrated by the difficult EDL phase, or Entry, Descent and Landing. Many previous missions were lost in this critical phase, including the predecessor of Phoenix, and since one of the science goals of the mission is to prepare for human exploration, NASA had to prove that landing a craft on Mars has improved dramatically. It appears that goal is well on its way. See http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/ for more information.

The Planets

Earth:

The second of two annual opportunities to experience Lahaina Noon comes this month. Between May and July the sun passes directly overhead for areas within the Tropics. During Lahaina Noon objects that are directly perpendicular to the sun, such as flagpoles or fences, have no shadows since the “shadow” would be cast “under” the object. Times vary by location, so check the website for more information: www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium

Also, aphelion takes place on July 3, the Earth’s farthest point in its orbit around the sun. Coincidentally the Moon is in a new phase at the same time, so the effect of the tides will be enhanced. Higher tides than normal usually occur during this alignment.

Mercury:

Mercury is in the morning sky now, rising around 4:30 A.M. in early July. By the last week it will be too close to the sunrise to spot as it rounds around the backside of the sun to reappear in the evening sky.

Venus:

For the casual viewer, Venus will be very difficult to spot until mid-month, when it is a little farther from the sun in the western sky at sunset. However the “window” to see it will be short for this month since the planet sets before darkness by 8:00 P.M.

Mars:

Mars is cruising through Leo, meeting up with Saturn along the way and by the end of the month will pass through the constellation on the way to Virgo. The planet is slowly receding from us in its orbit and dimming as it goes, but is still easily visible to the unaided eyes.

Jupiter:

Jupiter reaches opposition on the evening of July 9, rising in the east as the sun sets. If the weather is nice, this is an excellent night to see the four evening planets in the sky. You will need to get somewhere you can see all the way to the western horizon, and starting from that point shortly after sunset (around 7:30 P.M.) look for Venus low in the west, followed by Mars and Saturn close together about halfway up in the western sky and Jupiter rising in the east.

Saturn:
Although Mars and Saturn are set for a rendezvous Saturn’s position changes very little with respect to the starry background. The ringed planet is much farther away than our neighbor Mars, therefore orbiting the sun at a slower rate of speed. Where Mars orbits the sun in almost 687days, Saturn takes 29.5 years!

For more information on touring Hawaii in general and the Big Island in particular, visit tourguidehawaii.com and tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

//www.astroday.net/BishopSky.html

Hawaii Sky tonight, Bishop Museum http://www.astroday.net/BishopSky.html

Reprinted from here.

Skywatch Article
July 2008
By Carolyn Kaichi, Bishop Museum

PLANETS AND THE SUMMER MILKY WAY

The interesting thing about sky-watching is the fact that although the seasonal constellations are predictable, what you may see at any designated time is not. Planetary movement and other recurring events take place on different cycles than the background of stars so we can’t always count on seeing the same combination of sights in the sky at the same times. That keeps me in business.

So what we will see in the sky this July is not unusual, but a fortunate arrangement of celestial constituents that will be easy and convenient to view. Four naked-eye planets dot the evening skies this month, with two staging a nice pairing together and beautiful Venus making its reappearance back into the night. Although it might be challenging to spot Venus low in the western sky after sunset during the first half of the month, by the end of the July it will be climbing higher out of the light and easier to spot.

A nice highlight will be the conjunction of Mars and Saturn in the constellation Leo on July 9 and 10. The rust-colored planet and pale yellow Saturn have been slowly creeping closer over the past weeks and will be at their closest on those two dates (although the 10th is technically the closest date, both nights are good for viewing). Included in the lineup is the brightest star in Leo, Regulus, which is on that planet highway called the ecliptic. As a bonus, on July 5 a small crescent Moon joins the group as Mars closes in. That evening going from west to east, you can see the Moon next to the star Regulus, followed by Mars and Saturn. Make sure you start early however, because this gathering will set by 10:00 P.M.

Jupiter is also impressive in the east as the sun sets. The giant planet is at opposition now, meaning that it is on the opposite side of our sky than the sun (think “Sun, Earth, Jupiter” in that order). It appears bigger and brighter in the night sky at this time and is visible in the sky the whole night. Now would be a great time to take out a pair of binoculars and look for the famous features that characterize Jupiter, like the Galilean satellites and the distinct bands of color on the planet. The monster hurricane, the Great Red Spot, is visible with telescopes but not necessarily with average binoculars.

While the planets steal the spotlight this month, don’t forget to pay attention to the summer Milky Way! The hazy band of light extending from north to south is part of the galaxy we reside in and offers many binocular and telescopic sights along the way. The area roughly between Scorpius’ stinger and Sagittarius’ “spout” is particularly wide since that direction is the bulbous center of our galaxy, approximately 26,000 light years away. Rather than individual points of light we see the accumulation of the millions of stars obscured by gas and dust. Right now you can see the Milky Way stretching from the southwest in the direction of the Southern Cross (early in the evening) through the Summer Triangle toward Perseus in the northeast in the early morning hours.

EVENING PROGRAM UPDATE

With so many objects to look for in the skies, it’s difficult to cram everything into one article every month. Consider our planetarium as the next best thing to the real sky, one with a personal “guide” to the stars. An evening program is held on the first Fridays of the month, with sky viewing if the weather is clear. However since it falls on the 4th of July this month, the program has been moved to Friday, July 11. It begins promptly at 8:00 P.M. and reservations are strongly recommended. Call 848-4168.

PHOENIX UPDATE

The Phoenix lander is busily performing its tasks since touchdown on Mars a little over a month ago. What the mission has already done for space exploration was demonstrated by the difficult EDL phase, or Entry, Descent and Landing. Many previous missions were lost in this critical phase, including the predecessor of Phoenix, and since one of the science goals of the mission is to prepare for human exploration, NASA had to prove that landing a craft on Mars has improved dramatically. It appears that goal is well on its way. See http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/ for more information.

The Planets

Earth:

The second of two annual opportunities to experience Lahaina Noon comes this month. Between May and July the sun passes directly overhead for areas within the Tropics. During Lahaina Noon objects that are directly perpendicular to the sun, such as flagpoles or fences, have no shadows since the “shadow” would be cast “under” the object. Times vary by location, so check the website for more information: http://www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium

Also, aphelion takes place on July 3, the Earth’s farthest point in its orbit around the sun. Coincidentally the Moon is in a new phase at the same time, so the effect of the tides will be enhanced. Higher tides than normal usually occur during this alignment.

Mercury:

Mercury is in the morning sky now, rising around 4:30 A.M. in early July. By the last week it will be too close to the sunrise to spot as it rounds around the backside of the sun to reappear in the evening sky.

Venus:

For the casual viewer, Venus will be very difficult to spot until mid-month, when it is a little farther from the sun in the western sky at sunset. However the “window” to see it will be short for this month since the planet sets before darkness by 8:00 P.M.

Mars:

Mars is cruising through Leo, meeting up with Saturn along the way and by the end of the month will pass through the constellation on the way to Virgo. The planet is slowly receding from us in its orbit and dimming as it goes, but is still easily visible to the unaided eyes.

Jupiter:

Jupiter reaches opposition on the evening of July 9, rising in the east as the sun sets. If the weather is nice, this is an excellent night to see the four evening planets in the sky. You will need to get somewhere you can see all the way to the western horizon, and starting from that point shortly after sunset (around 7:30 P.M.) look for Venus low in the west, followed by Mars and Saturn close together about halfway up in the western sky and Jupiter rising in the east.

Saturn:
Although Mars and Saturn are set for a rendezvous Saturn’s position changes very little with respect to the starry background. The ringed planet is much farther away than our neighbor Mars, therefore orbiting the sun at a slower rate of speed. Where Mars orbits the sun in almost 687days, Saturn takes 29.5 years!

Questions? Contact Carolyn Kaichi @ hokupaa@bishopmuseum.org or 847-8203.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general or touring the Big Island in particular, go to www.tourguidehawaii.com or here.

—————————————————————————————————

This article reprinted from http://www.astroday.net/bishopsky.html

Bishop Museum Sky Map for Hawaii, June 2008

SKY GEOMETRY

The patterns we see in the sky exist only in our imagination. The points of light we group to create the shapes we call constellations are arbitrary and usually don’t have any connection with each other at all except that they happened to line up in someone’s mind at one time. The 88 “official” constellations are recognized by a group of professionals called the International Astronomical Union to help keep order and structure to the science of astronomy. Otherwise, imagine what chaos might reign—how would anyone know how to distinguish one part of the sky from another if names were random? For instance, the constellation Crater the Cup in the southern sky next to Corvus looks remarkably like my Weber grill, but I can’t very well start referring to it as such. As it is, we sometimes “shorten” the constellations anyway. Sagittarius is often referred to as the Teapot, and part of the Big and Little Bears are called the Big and Little Dippers, respectively.

Informal groupings or segments of constellations are called asterisms. They are usually parts of constellations that are more easily recognized, like the Dippers and the Teapot, and at times the references are updated. Some constellations are simply easier to recognize by these nicknames. I have heard the constellation Boötes the Herdsman referred to as a “bowtie” or “ice cream cone”, which most people relate to better.

Sometimes asterisms include groups of stars or constellations, like the Summer Triangle. Known anecdotally as a basic element of celestial navigation, the Summer Triangle is comprised of the three brightest stars in three separate constellations forming a large, distinctly triangular shape in the sky. First to rise in the east is the star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Lyre. Lyra is a small constellation that takes a bit of effort to imagine the harp-shaped instrument from the parallelogram of stars, but it is an area rich in telescopic sights. One is the famous Ring Nebula, M57—a little smoke-ring object that is the remains of a dying star seen at the center of the ring.

Vega is a white star and the fifth brightest star in the sky. Twelve thousand years ago Vega used to be our North Star, but because the Earth slowly “wobbles” (think of a spinning top, except our wobble is 26,000 years long!) the North Pole points toward different stars periodically. Right now, almost halfway through the wobble’s circle, Polaris is our North Star but in another 14,000 years Vega will take that title again.

Almost two hours after Vega rises the second point of the Triangle appears in the east in Cygnus the Swan. Although this constellation can be easily visualized as a bird, it does have an asterism associated with it. Part of the body and wingspan of the Swan is known as the Northern Cross. The star Deneb is the tail feather of the bird and is the brightest star in that constellation. Opposite from Deneb is an interesting star called Alberio. With a low powered telescope or even binoculars what looks like a single star will split into a beautiful sapphire blue and golden pair of stars.

A half hour later, Altair in Aquila the Eagle makes its appearance over the eastern horizon. Altair and Vega represent two figures in Japanese folklore that are celebrated with a national holiday in the country. Altair is the handsome herdsman Hikoboshi (also known as Kengyu) that fell in love with Orihime (Vega), the beautiful fabric-weaver. Their preoccupation with each other began to interfere with their duties, and as a result the gods separated them across a vast river in the sky. You can see that “heavenly river” in the dark sky as the white band of light called the Milky Way.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end here—the gods heard the unhappy cries of the two lovers and took pity on them. On the seventh day of the seventh month, the two are united for one day as a flock of magpies build a living bridge to bring the two together. Today this occasion is celebrated by a festive holiday called Tanabata in Japan on July 7, although in early times this date was determined by the lunar calendar.

Following the Summer Triangle (and the parallelogram of Lyra) is the big Square of Pegasus. But because it is not included on this month’s map, I will save that “astro-geometry” lesson for another month!

The Planets

Earth:

Summer kicks off, at least astronomically, with the solstice on June 20. At 2:00 P.M. HST the sun crosses from the southern hemisphere into the northern hemisphere, marked by the celestial equator. (The celestial equator is an imaginary line that extends the Earth’s equator into space)

Mercury:

Mercury is passing in front of the sun for most of the month and will reappear in the morning sky during the last week of June. It hangs over the red “bull’s eye” of Taurus in the light of the rising sun.

Venus:

Venus is behind the sun right now, what is referred to as superior conjunction. It will be another month before it will appear back in the evening sky and blaze in the west after the sun sets.

Mars:

Mars quickly moved from Gemini through Cancer last month and will settle in the constellation Leo during June. Saturn has also been a resident of Leo recently and the two planets are heading for a conjunction in July. You can watch the Red Planet edge closer to yellowish Saturn over the month, with Regulus (the brightest star in Leo) in the middle.

The NASA mission to Mars, called Phoenix (see May’s article) will make its descent to Mars on May 25. Unfortunately I cannot update the status of this mission because this article is filed before this date, but I will definitely talk about Phoenix next month.

Jupiter:

The King of Planets rules the night, shining brighter than any other object besides the Moon this month. Jupiter rises by 10:00 P.M. in early June and about two hours earlier by the end of the month. On June 18, the full Moon enters Sagittarius, the same constellation as Jupiter, and the next evening the waning Moon moves just south of the giant planet.

Saturn:
Look for Saturn high in the west at nightfall during the first half of June, then only about halfway up in that direction by the end of the month. The rings of the gas planet is continuing to tip edgewise to our line of sight and well worth watching over the upcoming months. You will need a telescope to really appreciate this sight, however.

Questions? Contact Carolyn Kaichi @ hokupaa@bishopmuseum.org or 847-8203.

For information ad videos about visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Hilo Side: Akaka Falls to Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

On your way back to the highway, stop in Honomu for some local-style shopping and a snack. Handmade curios and ice creams will delight your senses. Once back on Highway 19, turn right toward Hilo, about 10 minutes away.

Hilo is one of the wettest cities in the U.S. averaging around 200 inches per year. This old-style Hawaii town is quaint and bustling. Lots of great shops line the waterfront drive and the largest farmer’s market on the island is situated there as well. Tour Guide will take you right into the heart of town and give you history and attractions, such as the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and the Imiloa Astronomy Center at the University of Hawaii, Hilo Campus. A little farther along the coast are some beautiful beach parks like Richardson and Onekahakaha. Great picnicking, swimming and some good snorkeling can be found here. The Suisan Fish Market is famous for the early morning old-style fish auction. Be sure to take your time in Hilo as the shopping food options are immense.

In Hilo, you will turn north onto Highway. 11 at the intersection near Ken’s Pancake House, a landmark eatery. You will see the airport and Prince Kuhio Plaza on your way out of town. Stop in and visit the mall and shop and eat if you missed it in town. Just a few miles north of the mall is the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Tour Guide will tell you how this is the only rainforest zoo in North America. It is also free.

Super Tip: Gasoline in Hilo is typically 6-10 cents per gallon cheaper because it is the main port on the island. It is wise to fill up before heading back to Kona.

This completes this drive day. I suggest returning north through Hilo and back up the Hamakua Coast, through Waimea, and Highway 190 back to Kona.

For further information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com.

From The Bishop’s Museum “Skywatch” webpage.

ETA AQUARIDS AND SMALLEST FULL MOON

We spent last month being “grounded” by the myriad of science events in town and I didn’t spend much time on things going on above our atmosphere. In contrast, this month is a bit busier with interesting sky-watching events as well as a number of human-generated activities in our solar system.

Starting with the natural events in our sky, May has the second of the two “really good” meteor showers of the year, with the best-coinciding Moon phase to look for meteors. The Moon is “new”, or dark during the shower, which means there is no moonlight to compete with the streaking lights, however staying away from city lights will make for even better seeing conditions. The Eta Aquarids will peak at 8:00 A.M. on May 5. The radiant of the shower rises in the constellation Aquarius almost directly due east by 2:30 A.M. on May 5, so between then and sunrise is the most ideal viewing time. The Eta Aquarids are leftover bits of Comet Halley making contact with our atmosphere. Often characterized as “dirty snowballs”, comets are essentially loosely packed material that “shed” as they travel through space, especially as they get warmed by the sun. This debris is often pieces no larger than pebbles or dust. Please note that because Aquarius will not rise until the early morning hours, it will not be included on this map. But don’t worry, you do not need a star map nor knowledge of the constellation to look for the Eta Aquarids if you go by the times and direction to look (east).

Speaking of the Moon, this month’s full Moon is the smallest of 2008. Remember that the Moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular but elliptical so there is a closest and farthest point to the Earth every month, called perigee and apogee, respectively. This month’s full Moon coincides with its apogee, therefore making it appear smaller in the sky. The difference visually is less than 10% and most people will probably not notice it, but pictures of the Moon compared at both extremes (perigee and apogee) will definitely show the difference. A good website for this is Astronomy Picture of the Day and search for “apogee” or “perigee”.

SPACE TRAFFIC

There are a lot of exciting missions heading off into space this month—starting closest to the Earth, the space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch the last day of May to the International Space Station (ISS). The shuttle carries more components for the Japanese laboratory KIBO and an astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a mission specialist. KIBO, which means “hope” in Japanese, will join the recently-added European Space Agency’s Columbus Lab and the existing research modules from the United States and Russia.

Moving further out into the solar system, NASA is anxiously waiting for May 25, when the newest Mars explorer touches down on the Red Planet. The Phoenix Mars Lander has been cruising the 422 million miles to the planet since it launched last August and will join the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity on the surface in the search for water and signs of habitability. While the rovers explore the equatorial region of Mars, Phoenix will be located at the north polar area. In comparison, if Phoenix were on Earth it would be in Northern Canada within the Arctic Circle. Water is the main ingredient for supporting life as we know it, and scientists are concentrating on this part of Mars because there is evidence of large amounts of water locked in the ice caps at the poles.

Phoenix is named after the mythical bird that bursts into flames as it dies, bringing forth a new bird from its ashes. The Phoenix Mars Lander carries instruments and spacecraft design from two unsuccessful missions, the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, reviving the technology and making this mission the first to explore the icy polar region of the planet from the surface.

Lastly, a mission that will explore the farthest ends of the universe is also scheduled to launch in mid-May. NASA’s Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) will search deep space for gamma-ray bursts, one of the most elusive and the most powerful forms of radiation in the universe. It is not known what causes these massive explosions of energy and scientists are hoping to determine whether exotic objects such as black holes or neutron stars are involved. GLAST will also study other sources of high-energy, like supernovas and pulsars, to help give more insight to our understanding of the universe.

The Planets

Earth:

Lahaina Noon season begins. Between May and July the sun passes directly overhead for areas within the Tropics. During Lahaina Noon objects that are directly perpendicular to the sun, such as flagpoles or fences, have no shadows since the “shadow” would be cast right “under” the object. Times vary by location, so check the website for more information: www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium

Mercury:

Mercury is back in the western sky at sunset, low in the horizon during the first week of May and getting to its full height at mid-month. Although small, Mercury is fairly bright but is typically visible mostly during twilight because by the time the sky is fully dark the little planet is too low to the horizon for most people to see. (Unless you have a clear view to the west)

Venus:

Unfortunately the brightest planet is no match for the brightest star in our sky. Venus is very close to the sun right now and will move behind it next month. The casual observer will have a difficult time spotting it the few minutes before the sun rises in the first week of the month.

Mars:

Mars moves from Gemini into Cancer during this month and towards the end of the month (May 21-23) and passes through a nice binocular cluster, M44 or the Beehive Cluster. During the first couple of weeks while the planet is still in Gemini, however, look for the fading planet next to the two brothers’ “heads” at the east of the constellation. It is still as bright as Pollux (the more eastern twin) but continues to fade as it recedes from Earth. On May 9 a crescent Moon joins the group as Mars makes its way eastward. The constellation Cancer contains few bright stars discernable from the city, so it is not included on the map, but follow Mars’ path through the month and see if you can spot the cluster of hundreds of stars with binoculars during its trek through the Beehive!

Jupiter:

Jupiter rises right around midnight the first few days of the month and almost half an hour earlier by just the first week. By the end of the month the giant planet will rise by 10:00 P.M. Jupiter is to the east of the “teapot handle” of Sagittarius, but you won’t have any trouble finding it in the sky because of its brightness.

Saturn:
At the start of May Saturn is almost at zenith at nightfall and next to the “heart” of the constellation Leo. If you are looking at Mars during the month with binoculars, don’t pass up the chance to spot Saturn while you’re at it since they are in the same part of the sky.

To see video of exploring the lava flow, go here and here; for more information on exploring the Big Island, go here and here; for information on renting GPS-guided tours of the Big Island, go here to see a video demonstration of GPS-guided tours of the Big Island, go here.

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