14th Annual AstroDay Festival: A team of 23 Subaru Telescope staff shares astronomy with the local community

June 8, 2015

"What is the closest star to us?" "What does Subaru mean?"

On May 2, 2015, AstroDay, the Prince Kuhio Plaza mall in Hilo, Hawai'i was packed with space explores of all ages, who were asking the Subaru Telescope staff various questions. Celebrating astronomy and Hawaiian culture, this family-friendly annual event, AstroDay, started 14 years ago. Since its inception, the Subaru Telescope has been playing an integral role in AstroDay, together with the other Maunakea observatories.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Explorers of all ages engaged in a multitude of hands-on activities at the Subaru Telescope booth. (Top Left) "Let's move a camera transporter!" Hawai'i's youth operating a small robotic replica of the Cassegrain Instrument Auto Exchanger (CIAX) for instrument exchange (Top Right) Making Subaru's mascot "Subby" hats. (Bottom Left) "Got questions? Ask astronomer!" (Bottom Right) Hawai'i's youth explorer. (Credit: NAOJ)

The day started with a powerful Hawaiian chant by a cultural practitioner and former Maunakea ranger, Kimo Pihana, followed by performances by local musicians. Over 20 exhibits — from Maunakea observatories, University of Hawai'i at Hilo, 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, Maunakea Visitor Information center, Maunakea forest reforestation project, and local high schools — were placed throughout the shopping mall, sharing the joy and wonders of astronomy and science through a variety of hands-on activities, displays, and conversations.

The Subaru Telescope booth was well staffed with a total of 23 members, comprising astronomers, telescope operators, engineers, administration staff, and student interns. The observatory staff of various jobs and background were all there to share their passion and knowledge with the local community.

Figure 2

Figure 2: (Top Left) Mr. Saturn at the Subaru booth! (Top Right) Making bracelets with ultraviolet sensitive beads. (Bottom Left) Student interns from the Hawai'i Community College talking to Hawai'i's youth. (Bottom Right) Coloring Subaru's mascot, Subby. (Credit: NAOJ)

Children and adults alike enjoyed seeing rainbows using spectrum cards and learned that light is composed of different colors (wavelength). Next to the spectrum cards demonstration, the visitors were busy making bracelets using ultraviolet (UV) sensitive beads. These UV beads temporarily change their colors under sunlight (ultraviolet light) except when they are covered by sunscreen or put under sunglasses. Through these fun hands-on activities, well suited to this year's International Year of Light initiative, visitors learned the properties of light.

Figure 3

Figure 3: (Left) Subaru space voyage game! How fast and safe can you travel across the Solar system? (Right) A Hawai‘i's youth exploring the space with an instrumentation/research specialist, Dr. Christophe Clergeon, who created this game. (Credit: NAOJ)

The space voyage game developed by a Subaru scientist Dr. Christophe Clergeon constantly attracted people of all ages. Visitors used a hand-held mini spaceship to travel across the solar system, whose travel path was made with a wire. Every time the metal ring of the spaceship touched the wire, the spaceship made a noise and the participant was asked questions about the Solar system. This engaging game spurred guests' curiosity about astronomy and space exploration, and was a catalyst for conversations with the staff.

AstroDay this year was yet another fun, successful event and all 23 Subaru Telescope staff who participated were pleased to see so many happy, excited faces at the mall.

Figure 4

Figure 4: A flyer showing a multitude of hands-on activities at the Subaru Telescope booth. (Credit: NAOJ)

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