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Written directed and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess; Original Musical Score by Donald B. MacGowan.

There are unusual, peculiar dangers to hiking on the lava plain that might not be obvious to the casual visitor. The steam clouds generated by the lava entering the sea contain fine, glassy particulate material as well as sulfuric and hydrochloric acids in concentration high enough to aggravate the very young and old, expectant mothers and people with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Over the past 20 years, a few adventurous people venturing too close to vents or the sea entries have asphyxiated from toxic gasses. The ocean near the lava entries is superheated and waves lapping on inviting black sand beaches can be scalding hot. Where explosive, the meeting of molten rock and sea can explode large, searing hot rocks hundreds of feet in the air and throw boiling water, splashing everywhere.

Methane explosions occur with no notice, dozens if not a hundred feet ahead of flows, flinging huge blocks hundreds of feet. Unstable benches that build up into the sea, and upon which the unwary hike and pause to photograph the scenery, are prone to collapse carrying all into the sea. Such collapses can cause local tidal waves which scour the landscape clean of everything as they pass. Thin lava crusts can hide lava tubes, caves, hollows and holes into which hikers occasionally fall and are caught.

A volcano is a naturally highly seismically active area and earthquakes are common (there are over 1200 measurable earthquakes a week on the Big Island). Less common, but certainly a constant threat, are local tsunamis generated by these earthquakes. The Park Service has roughly marked the trail to the lava; follow it closely, turning around frequently to acquaint yourself with landmarks for the hike back.

Be sure to take extra film for your camera and remember to wipe down all cameras, eyeglasses, binoculars, optics and electronics after your visit; the salt and volcano effluent-laden atmosphere is highly corrosive. Batteries may be drained faster than expected due to the high heat near the lava.

Despite the inherent dangers of hiking over liquid rock, steaming and unstable ground along the ever-restless sea, very few hikers are injured here, even fewer are killed. This is only because people enter the goddess’s home with a sense of awe and great caution, and the Rangers are very good about instilling fear and trepidation into the hearts of those who think themselves otherwise immune to the mortal dangers presented here. If you go, remain cautious and vigilant, plan for adversity, think ahead and pay attention. The rewards for this are a moving and amazing experience few ever have, a memory of mystery, awe and wonder to treasure always.

If you are planning on viewing the lava at night, be sure to remember that there will be no open gas stations or restaurants when you depart the Park until you reach either Kona or Hilo…plan accordingly, think ahead.

For more information, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com or www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls on the Hamakua Coast, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The windward side of Hawaii Island is famous for its numerous, beautiful waterfalls. Flying into Hilo on rainy day, one is presented with the incredible vision of an island seeming brimming with waterfalls, spuming off from every declivity and and canyon in the beach cliffs. Many of these waterfalls are inaccessible, or available for view only by paying admission, but three of the loveliest are located in public parks, either within the city limits of Hilo, or with an easy drive from town.


Rainbow Falls

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. Located in the Wailuku River Park along Rainbow Drive off of Waianuenue Avenue in Hilo Town, Rainbow falls is easily visited by car, public transportation or foot from town.

The cave beneath Rainbow Falls is said to have been the home of Hina, mother of the demigod Maui, who brought fire to mankind. It is also said to be the place where Kamehameha buried his father’s bones.

The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume. At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit.

Waianuenue in Hawai’ian means “rainbow in waterfall”, and just about every village in Hawai’i large enough to have paved roads, has a “Waianuenue Street”. This particular waterfall was called “Waianuenue” by the ancient Hawai’ians, and remains the reigning queen of its namesake. A remarkable and lovely waterfall, the rainbows within it, which are the emblem of the state of Hawai’i, are best seen in the mid to late morning. Follow the trail to the left along the river bank to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous. Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.

Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls
Wild swimming, a jungle of ferns and blossoms, forest solitude and a raging river, all within a few miles of downtown Hilo, Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls are located in the Wailuku River Park just mauka (uphill, but east in any case) of Rainbow Falls.

Boiling pots is a short section of rapids in the Wailuku River between Pe’epe’e Falls and Rainbow Falls that is popular with locals for swimming, cliff diving and body surfing the rapids. Set in an emerald jungle canyon, the river is an open invitation to cool off for visitors who may be unaccustomed to Hilo’s climate of fierce heat and unrelenting humidity.

If swimming is in your plans, however, be very, very careful; conditions at Boiling Pots are not as benign as they seem and can change instantly with a minor cloudburst miles upstream, that you won’t ever know about until the river fills to flood stage. Follow the dirt path past the “No Swimming” signs down into the canyon for access to the swimming holes. There are also many flat rocks you can lie out on and absorb that wonderful Hawai’i sunshine if the swimming is not inviting.

If sight seeing, and not swimming, is your agenda, content yourself with a walk to the scenic overlook, from which the boiling pots and Pe’epe’e Falls can be seen. In low water conditions, it is possible to hike up-river and over to Pe’epe’e Falls for some guaranteed solitude and fairly untraveled vistas. Otherwise, Pe’epe’e Falls can be found by following roads along the Wailuku River to the last bridge above Boiling Pots; the falls are easily visible from the bridge and the hike is mercifully short and easy-although a haven for mosquitoes.

Akaka Falls
There is a reason that Akaka Falls rates as the most visited tourist site on the island of Hawai’i. Simply put, the 420 foot, free falling plunge of clear water down a fern festooned cliff is an amazing and beautiful site. Leaving the parking lot, the loop trail immediately splits. Going left through fern, ginger, impatiens and bamboo, one reaches Akaka Falls in 5-8 minutes of ambling. If you turn right, the trail loops up and down some hills, through a wonderful jungle of flowers, ferns, heliconia, palms and bamboo to 100 foot tall Kahuna Falls in about 15 minutes of walking; Akaka Falls is then reached by following the same path another 5 minutes and 5-8 minutes after that you are back at the parking lot.

If you are lucky, and approach Akaka Falls on a sunny morning when the sun shines into to grotto, you may be blessed with seeing rainbows in the falls, or waianuenue, the lovely icon of Hawaii.

When visiting Akaka Falls, be sure to save some time to explore the shops, galleries and cafes of Honomu on the way back to the highway; it’s unlike anywhere you’ve ever been before…guaranteed; old Hawaii with a modern flair.

Video of Rainbow Falls is available here; video of Akaka Falls is available here.

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

About the Author : Popular television personality and award-winning independent filmmaker Dr. Donald B. MacGowan originally pursued a career in academics, earning two B.Sc. degrees, a dual M.Sc., and a PhD.; co-authoring over 5.2 million dollars in grants, and publishing more than 200 refereed journal articles, abstracts, etc. Gaining sanity somewhere in that process, he quit the academic rat race and began to live. Donnie is an accomplished, prolific alpinist, having climbed on 5 of the seven continents, putting up more than 150 first ascents on rock, ice and snow, and a dozen first ski descents. He has written, directed and produced short and feature length films on health, travel, mountaineering and life in a touring rock band. Donnie records and tours relentlessly with his Celtic Punk fusion band “Fatal Loins”–although nobody much seems to care for their music. A Hawaii resident since 2000, he quietly and humbly inhabits Kailua Kona, doing environmental good works, surfing the be-jeezis out of the local waves and frenetically producing somewhat bizarre and mildly disturbing programs for local television which have recently been lauded as: “Ignorant”, “Arrogant” and “Totally Insane”. You may say what you wish about him, Donnie does not care. For somewhere underneath those swaying palm trees, in those warm aloha breezes, he is far too busy praying for good surf to hear you…

Deeper into mysterious Puna!

As you continue along the coast road, you will next encounter McKenzie State Park. Here the Ironwood trees create an unusual ambience of a pine tree forest. The sheer cliffs and majesty of the ocean beg for photographing. Swimming would be near impossible here, but the hiking is spectacular. Tour Guide will give more information about this other- worldly park. A permit is required for camping and the facilities are a bit run down.

Not far away is Kahena Beach. This beautiful black sand beach involves a bit of a scamper to get down the cliff, but is well worth the effort. Tour Guide will give you the easiest path to take. You may notice that this beach is “clothing optional”, thus it’s popularity. Swimming here is good, but currents can be strong if you get too far from shore.

Drive just a few miles further and you come to what used to be the town of Kalapana. Kalapana and Royal Gardens were destroyed in the lava flows during the late1980’s.

What remain are a few homes and businesses where the road now ends. From here one can see the plume of smoke coming from the vent upslope. Sometimes the lava reaches the ocean about 2 miles from this spot.

A short five minute hike will bring you to Kaimu Beach, the newest black sand beach on the island. Tour Guide will give you the rich history of the ancient fishing villages that were here and the touching stories about the palms at Kaimu Beach.

Heading back from Kalapana, you will want to take Highway 130 toward Pahoa. This is your best chance of watching Kilauea erupt. Just a few hundred yards north of Kalapana, is the old turn off to Royal Gardens. This is now the official County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Site. Drive as far as the attendants will allow you, park and walk into where you can safely view the lava flowing into the ocean. Daily updates on the volcano and conditions at site are available at the Hawaii County Lava Viewing Desk, phone number 808.961.8093; more information is here and here.

Farther along the highway to Pahoa, you will see a “scenic turnout” where you can view the Puna Geothermal Vents. Here a company has tapped the natural steam to create electricity from these fumaroles. Tour Guide will show you how, with a short hike off the road, and you can sit in one of these natural sauna vents for some real relaxation.

Now you’re ready to head back to Kona. Take Highway 130 to Highway 11 and go south. If time permits, you may want to stop in Volcano Village, just off the highway, for some food, gasoline, shopping or maybe even some wine tasting. This may be the last gasoline available until you get back to Kona. Find your hotel in your Tour Guide and get turn-by-turn directions right to the door.

Reprinted from here.

Point Forecast: Kailua Kona HI
19.63N 155.95W (Elev. 1217 ft)
Last Update: 4:58 am HST Oct 5, 2008
Forecast Valid: 7am HST Oct 5, 2008-6pm HST Oct 11, 2008
Forecast at a Glance
Today

Scattered Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 30%
Scattered
Showers
Hi 76°F
Tonight

Haze
Haze

Lo 65°F

Monday

Scattered Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 30%
Scattered
Showers
Hi 76°F
Monday
Night

Haze
Haze

Lo 65°F

Tuesday

Scattered Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 30%
Scattered
Showers
Hi 78°F
Tuesday
Night

Haze
Haze

Lo 66°F

Wednesday

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 80°F
Wednesday
Night

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Lo 66°F
Thursday

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 80°F

Detailed text forecast
Today: Scattered showers after noon. Widespread haze after noon. Partly cloudy, with a high near 76. West wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Tonight: Widespread haze before midnight. Mostly clear, with a low around 65. North wind at 7 mph becoming east.

Monday: Scattered showers after noon. Widespread haze after noon. Partly cloudy, with a high near 76. West wind between 5 and 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Monday Night: Widespread haze before midnight. Mostly clear, with a low around 65. Light and variable wind.

Tuesday: Scattered showers after noon. Widespread haze after noon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 78. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Tuesday Night: Widespread haze. Mostly clear, with a low around 66. Light and variable wind.

Wednesday: Isolated showers after noon. Widespread haze. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday Night: Isolated showers. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 66. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday: Isolated showers. Widespread haze. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday Night: Widespread haze. Mostly clear, with a low around 66. Calm wind.

Friday: Scattered showers. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 80. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Friday Night: Widespread haze before midnight. Mostly clear, with a low around 66. Calm wind becoming east around 5 mph.

Saturday: Scattered showers. Widespread haze after noon. Partly cloudy, with a high near 80. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and The Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.


Driving south on Hwy 270, just past the town of Hawi, you will see the tourguidehawaturn off for Hwy 250 on the mountain side of the road. This hwy will take you over Kohala Mountain to the town of Waimea. This hwy is rated by AAA Travel as one of the top 10 most scenic highways in the U.S. Along the way you will pass through beautiful pasture lands, areas for horseback riding, ranch style dinners, ATV tours and Hummer tours. Tour Guide will give the history of this area as well as activities offered here.

At the other end of Hwy 250 is Waimea. This town is known for the paniolo, the Hawaiian word for cowboy, and the Parker Ranch. At 3500 ft elevation, the cooler climate is perfect for growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of livestock. There are also some fabulous restaurants featuring some of the best chefs in the world. Tour Guide will tell you about the storied history, museums, tours, shopping and dining. For such a small town there is a lot to do here.

From Waimea, it’s time to head south on Hwy 190 on our way back to Kona. Along the way is Waikoloa Village. This is mostly a residential town but is built around the Waikoloa Village Golf Course. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course has some stunning views from the 2000 ft elevation. Tour Guide will show you where there is a shopping center with grocery, restrooms, restaurants and a gas station.

Super Tip: Finding restrooms on the road can be difficult when you are driving in unfamiliar territory. Tour Guide has a special feature that helps you to find the nearest public restroom anywhere you are on the island. This is super handy when touring with the family.

Along the way back to Kona, you will pass some of the finest beaches and most interesting historical and cultural spots on the Kona-Kohala Coast. Tour Guide can tell you all about these fascinating places, as well as opportunities here for whale watching, wild-life viewing, hiking and sight-seeing.

From Waikoloa Village, continue driving south on Hwy 190, about 30 minutes, until you arrive back in Kona. Tour Guide will give you turn-by-turn directions to your resort to end you’re second day of touring by car.

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

Along the sea cliffs that surround the Island of Hawai’i, arches and sea stacks are formed where wild waves and tides exploit minute differences in the hardness of various layers of lava flow and airfall material, making strange, gravity-defying natural sculptures. Although common, there are few places where these arches and stacks are easily viewable–one such place is the Holei Sea Arch, which is currently directly seaward of the end of the Chain of Craters Road.

At Holei Sea Arch the cliffs are 80 to 90 feet high, but many waves still spray and wash over them, so use caution when approaching and photographing the arch. Notice along the lower cliffs in the area toward the eruption viewing platform, the several large boulders which have been dropped by giant, angry waves crashing over the sea cliffs. Imagine the power of a wave that would have enough force to deposit a several-ton boulder on a cliff 30 feet about the surface of the ocean.

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

Produced by Donnie MacGowan; videography by Donnie MacGowan and Frank Burgess; narrated by Frank Burgess; original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan.

Reprinted from here.

Point Forecast: Kailua Kona HI
19.63N -156W (Elev. 0 ft)
Last Update: 6:55 am HST Jul 29, 2008
Forecast Valid: 9am HST Jul 29, 2008-6pm HST Aug 4, 2008
Forecast at a Glance
Today

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 84°F
Tonight

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Lo 74°F
Wednesday

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 85°F
Wednesday
Night

Haze
Haze

Lo 73°F

Thursday

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 84°F
Thursday
Night

Haze
Haze

Lo 73°F

Friday

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 85°F
Friday
Night

Haze
Haze

Lo 72°F

Saturday

Isolated Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Isolated
Showers
Hi 85°F
Detailed text forecast
Hazardous weather condition(s):

Today: Isolated showers. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 84. West wind around 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Tonight: Isolated showers before midnight. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. East wind around 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday: Isolated showers after noon. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 85. East wind around 8 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday Night: Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 73. East wind around 7 mph.

Thursday: Isolated showers after noon. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 84. East wind around 7 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday Night: Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 73. East wind around 6 mph.

Friday: Isolated showers after noon. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 85. East wind around 7 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Friday Night: Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. East wind around 6 mph.

Saturday: Isolated showers. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 85. East wind around 7 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Saturday Night: Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 73. East wind around 8 mph.

Sunday: Isolated showers. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 85. East wind around 9 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Sunday Night: Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 73. East wind around 9 mph.

Monday: Isolated showers. Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a high near 85. East wind around 9 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

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

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints: Kona Coast South of Honaunau to Ka’u

Driving south on Hwy 11 there isn’t too much to stop and see for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Soon your Tour Guide will give you information about Ho’okena Beach and Milolii.

Ho’okena is a lovely gray sand beach about 5 miles off the main hwy. This is a nice beach for swimming, snorkeling and picnicking. There are some trails to hike and decent restrooms. Camping is also available by permit only. Your Tour Guide will give more information about trails to hike, camping, and where to get snorkel gear and camping permits.

Driving a few miles further, headed toward the volcano park, is the turn off for Milolii. Again about 5 miles off the main highway, Milolii is one of the last fishing villages in Hawaii. On the way down the views are spectacular, so keep your camera handy. Tour Guide will give you lots of history about this area, so make sure you listen to it on the way. If you are up for a short hike, park at the Miloli’i County Beach Park and hike the shoreline trail to beautiful, secluded, empty Honomalino Bay.

As with anywhere you travel, make sure to lock your vehicle when you leave it and don’t leave valuables in plain sight.

Tour Guide will show many other great places to explore as you continue driving south, including the famous, beautiful and wild South Point, southernmost point in the US. We’ll jump ahead at this point to the southernmost town in the United States, Na’alehu. This quaint plantation town is a throwback to when sugar cane was the main export. Na’alehu boasts being a favorite spot for Mark Twain to rest and enjoy the old Hawaii lifestyle. The Punalu’u Bakery has become famous throughout the state for their sumptuous sweet bread. These are just two great reasons to stop and take in some of the local flavor.

Driving about 10 miles further south, your Tour Guide will recommend the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, one of the top 44 sites on the Big Island. This beach is not only famous for the jet black sand but also for the Hawaiian Green sea turtles and the Hawksbill sea turtles who reside nearby. Often you can see these magnificent creatures sunning on the black sand and, at certain times of the year, nesting and laying their eggs. All turtles in Hawaii are endangered species so touching them is forbidden and a $20,000 dollar fine is strictly enforced. Get up close for photos but please leave them alone. Tour Guide will give you some of the rich history of this area as well.

Driving south from Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, you will notice the highway begin to ascend toward the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Just after you see the Volcano Park sign, there will be a small parking lot, on the ocean side of the hwy, called the Ka’u Desert Trail Head. A one mile hike on this trail will bring you to the warrior footprints and a petroglyph field. Tour Guide gives the stories and history of this fascinating area.

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


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See more at www.tourguidehawaii.com or www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

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.