PISCES’ planetary rover “Helelani” was among dozens of exhibits featured at the second annual AstroDay West Hawaii event at Kona Commons on Oct. 6. It was the rover’s first appearance at the event, which is based on International Astronomy Day and has been held in Hilo for the last 17 years. An estimated 3,000 people from the Kona community attended the event.
“It was extremely successful and we had as many if not more attendees this year,” said Carolyn Kaichi, education specialist at the University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy and a leading organizer for AstroDay. “From what we’ve seen today, there’s a real enthusiasm from the Kona community to have events of this kind.”
More than 30 organizations participated including the major Maunakea Observatories. Throughout the day, Gemini Observatory’s portable StarLab planetarium drew a steady stream of visitors. Families practiced launching mini rockets, viewed the sun through a solar telescope, created electricity with a kinetic crank and captured selfies next to an astronaut’s space suit.
KWXX deejay “DC” emceed the event, beginning with a traditional Hawaiian pule led by cultural practitioner Kimo Pihana. Miriam Fuchs, a telescope operator at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, presented a kid-friendly tutorial from the main stage on how to build a spacesuit using store bought materials.
AstroDay is organized and sponsored by the Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee (MKAOC). MKAOC hopes to continue the event in West Hawai’i next year as long as they can secure a venue.
“The partnership between Kona Commons and MKAOC has been very successful and I hope it can continue in the future,” said Kaichi.