Hawaii Island astronomy and cultural center to offer free admission March 1


If you’re on Hawaii Island this weekend, the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo promises a fun (and free!) opportunity to learn more about astronomy, Hawaiian culture and the intersection of those two topics.

The center, part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, will host their 9th annual Free Family Day this Sun., March 1. The event honors Imiloa’s anniversary and is the only day each year the center offers free admission to its exhibit hall, gardens and planetarium. The celebration includes a full day of planned events and activities—the first 1,000 visitors will also get a slice of cake.

Located in the foothills of Mauna Kea, Imiloa Astronomy Center shares the historical and spiritual significance of the mountain to the Hawaiian people and covers general scientific and astronomy concepts including insight into some of the research taking place in the 13 observatories atop the mountain.

The main exhibit hall at Imiloa Astronomy Center. Photo: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Special programming for Free Family Day includes interactive activities such as an archeological dig, flight simulation, a scavenger hunt and the chance to see and touch a real moon rock. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the night sky in regular 20-minute planetarium shows (note that while the center does have a 3D planetarium, shows during Free Family Day will not be in 3D).

Hourly astronomy talks begin at 10 a.m. Part of the national “Journey through the Universe” program that will continue in area schools Feb. 27 through March 6, the talks will bring visiting scientists from NASA, the University of Hawaii and the University of Oregon to explore topics ranging from black holes to what it’s like to be an astronomer.

The building features conical domes representing three of the large volcanic mountains on Hawaii Island. Photo: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

If you visit, be sure to also look for the center’s giant rotating orb depicting satellite and modeled images of the earth’s atmosphere, oceans and climate. The Science on a Sphere (SOS) exhibit requires specialized projection technology to show moving images on the sphere’s surface. There are only two SOS systems in the state of Hawaii—the other is at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

The center usually charges $17.50 for adult general admission or $9.50 for children ages 5-12. Children under 5 are always free. Regular resident discounts are available. Residents and visitors who purchase or renew a membership to the center will recieve $10 off if purchased onsite during Free Family Day.

Categories: Hawai‘i Island, Travel Tips