Look Through the Eyes of Mauna Kea

Big IslandEssential Big Island

The LARGEST ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY IN THE WORLD is located at the 13,796-foot summit of MAUNA KEA. Here, international scientists work with a sophisticated array of telescopes to gather data about the vast celestial universe.

The mountain currently houses 13 WORKING TELESCOPES, and plans are underway to build another, slated to be the largest on Earth. The new $1.2 billion telescope will be built by a consortium of California and Canadian universities, and will be capable of tracking stars and galaxies some 13 billion light years away.

Mauna Kea means, “white mountain,” in Hawaiian — so named for the snow that covers its slopes. It is the HIGHEST ISLAND MOUNTAIN ON EARTH, rising 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor. The view from the summit is like stepping out of an airplane just above a bank of clouds.

A GUIDED TOUR of the summit is the safest and most educational way to go. Several companies conduct tours, which can last seven or eight hours. MAUNAKEA SUMMIT ADVENTURES takes guests on an educational and exciting tour that starts at the visitor center, then, equipped with parkas and gloves, a half-hour four-wheel drive brings guests to the summit. Once there, guides help guests explore the night sky. Because of the very thin air at the summit, pregnant women, children under 13 years of age and those with respiratory, heart and severely overweight conditions are not advised to go beyond the visitor center.

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