It isn’t often that a museum about native Hawaiian culture shares the same space as a planetarium. But the two are exactly what the creators of the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai’i aimed to bring together when they envisioned their 40,000-square-foot learning center, opened one year ago this month. Situated on 9 acres near the University of Hawaii-Hilo, ‘Imiloa gives visitors “dual stories” of the famed Mauna Kea volcano, including its astronomical heritage, as well as the traditional Hawaiian culture surrounding it.
Astronomy played an important role in the culture of ancient Polynesians — the stars were invaluable navigational tools as well as religious symbols. The astronomical tradition of ancient people continues today, as Mauna Kea is one of astronomy’s foremost research sites. The volcano’s summit is home to some of the world’s most advanced telescopes, including the Subaru, Keck I and II, and Gemini. Through a variety of planetarium shows, interactive exhibits, and tours, ‘Imiloa is both a cultural museum and world-class planetarium.
To kick off the March 4 “Community Day” birthday festivities, ‘Imiloa’s Cultural Landscape Curator Hokuo Pelligrino offered a new Native Landscape Tour, a 45-minute walk among more than 50 types of indigenous plant species on the Center’s grounds.
One year since its inception, ‘Imiloa remains a popular tourist destination among families and astronomers alike. With the beauty of the natural landscape, the thrill of the state-of-the-art planetarium, and the hands-on, kid-friendly exhibits, ‘Imiloa will continue to attract visitors for years to come.