For Business Users

The following are some notes on rules to observe and words of caution and advice for operations at the NAOJ Hawaii Observatory.

Rules You Must Observe

  • A visit to the Subaru Telescope requires submission of a written request in advance. Requests are not accepted on-site. Accompanying persons not listed in the request submitted in advance will not be permitted, so please do not bring along unauthorized persons.
  • Follow the instructions of your Observatory guide at all times. Pay especially close attention to safety explanations, instructions about the route you will follow and instructions given in the event of emergency evacuation, and comply with those instructions fully.
  • Do not enter any other than the designated locations.
  • In the event of emergency, or if the Observatory judges that serious circumstances obstructing the operation of the telescope have occurred, stop all operations and immediately take action as instructed by Observatory staff.
  • Arrive at the appointed assembly location on time.
  • Be considerate of the environment of the entire peak area. Follow the rules and act appropriately in the Subaru Telescope facilities.

Special Cautions, General Cautions and Recommendations Regarding Operations at the Facilities on the Peak of Mauna Kea

Special Cautions

Mauna Kea has an elevation of 4,200m. Air pressure at the peak is only 60% of the pressure at sea level.
Because of the thinness of oxygen in the atmosphere, visitors to the facilities at the peak are in danger of altitude sickness.
For some people, the altitude may have a harmful effect on medical condition.
Persons who have health concerns and pregnant women are advised not to visit the facilities.

General Cautions and Recommendations

Conditions at the peak can cause oxygen deficiency, leading to degradation of metabolic function. For this reason, please consider the following cautions and recommendations.

  • Smoking and consumption of alcohol are strictly prohibited within the grounds of the Subaru Telescope. Visitors are advised to avoid smoking and consuming alcohol for 48 hours before their visit.
  • The difference in air pressure can cause gas to accumulate in the digestive tract. On the day before your visit, please avoid excessive consumption of foods that generate gas (beans, cabbage, onions and other foods that induce flatulence).
  • Dehydration can leave you vulnerable to altitude sickness. You are advised to consume large amounts of water.
  • Do not go scuba diving in the 24-hour period before your visit.
  • To accustom your body to the altitude, please rest at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station for at least 1 hour on your way up the mountain.
  • Do not try to hurry when you are inside the Subaru Telescope facilities. Avoid crouching down and standing up suddenly, as when picking up something you’ve dropped.
  • If you feel ill, do not ignore it. Tell an Observatory staff member about your condition. If you feel ill on the day of your visit, we recommend that you cancel the visit. The nearest medical facilities from the peak are a 11/2- to 2-hour drive down the mountainside, and no professional medical staff are stationed at the Observatory.
What to Wear
  • You will not be permitted access to the Subaru Telescope if you are wearing unstable and impractical footwear, such as high heels or sandals, or clothing that is impractical for working within the dome, including climbing and descending steep stairs.
  • Even in summertime the temperature at the peak frequently drops close to 0°C. Be sure to bring thick, long-sleeved outerwear. Ladies are advised to wear pants rather than skirts.
  • Helmets must be worn at all times in and around the dome of the Subaru Telescope.
Access to the Peak of Mauna Kea
  • There is a road to the peak of Mauna Kea, but there is no public transportation authority with jurisdiction over it.
  • The road upward from MKVIS is unpaved. It is impassable without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
  • The speed limit on the road upward from MKVIS is 25mph (40kph). The grade is steep, so you are advised to keep your vehicle in low gear when descending to avoid excessive speed.
  • Large vehicles regularly travel along the unpaved roads to carry out maintenance. When overtaking these vehicles or passing them in the opposite direction, drive slowly, follow any instructions from the drivers of the large vehicles, and drive with caution.
  • The mountainsides often become foggy, making visibility worse than ever. At such times exercise special care regarding your speed and surrounding conditions.
  • To preserve the natural environment as well as the environment for astronomical observation, a speed limit of 5mph (8kph) is applied to the roads nearby the Subaru Telescope (see map). Please reduce your speed and obey the speed limit.
  • At the speeds listed above, the drive from MKVIS to the Subaru Telescope should take about 30 minutes.
  • When you park your car, please use the designated parking area on the paved section of road on the slope outside the Subaru Telescope dome. Observation visitors are asked to enter and exit through the doors between the outside of the dome and the elevator. Please do not enter any unpaved areas, whether by car or on foot.
  • The distance from the City of Hilo on the east side of the island, where the mountaintop facilities of the Subaru Telescope are located, to the City of Kona on the west side of the island, is between 120km and 160km (80–100 miles). The distance from the center of Hilo to the peak is about 70km (45 miles). Including a one-hour rest halfway up the mountainside, the drive should take between 31/2 and 4 hours. Depending on the traffic in and around Kailua and Kona, it may take a little longer.
Working at the Peak
  • When driving toward the peak, be sure to acclimatize yourself to the altitude at Hale Pohaku. When drafting work plans on the peak, take care to include breaks according to the standards below.
  • For an 8-hour stay on the peak: At least 30 minutes
  • For 8 to 14 hours on the peak: At least 8 hours
  • When working on the peak, always be sure to follow the instructions of Observatory staff. During the day, the person responsible for work on the peak is the day crew chief. At night, the persons responsible for work (astronomical observation) are the operators.
Accommodations at Hale Pohaku
  • If your proposed schedule includes a stay at Hale Pohaku (to provide support for astronomical observation, adjust instruments, etc.), please enter that fact in the designated field in the visitor application form.
  • If your plans change during your stay at the Observatory so that you suddenly require accommodations, please contact the Operation Center and fill out the dedicated form.
Other Notes
  • The upper part of the dome of the Subaru Telescope functions as part of the telescope; it does not have the character of a separate building. Also, accessibility is not established in all areas. If you use a wheelchair, please contact the Operation Center in advance.
  • While in the dome, you must wear one of the helmets available for lending to visitors.
  • There are no washroom facilities along or near the observation route. Please take care of your washroom needs at MKVIS or in the simple toilet facilities just before the peak.
  • Please do not consume food or beverages inside the facilities of the Subaru Telescope. You may carry drinks to maintain your health, provided that you carry and manage them yourself.
  • Take all of your garbage with you when you depart.
  • The Observatory does not offer a lost-and-found service. Please take sufficient care of your belongings. Be aware that it is especially easy to forget things on the peak.
  • When walking around the Subaru Telescope on the peak, please walk carefully and stay on the paved section. Volcanic ash and lapilli (small stones that fall from the sky in a volcanic eruption) are specially placed to support the performance of the telescope; please do not trespass in these areas.

Notes When Staying at the Hawaii Observatory

When staying at the Hawaii Observatory, please bear in mind the following.

Entering and Exiting Facilities at the Base of Mauna Kea
  • The facilities at the base of Mauna Kea are unlocked every weekday morning (Monday to Friday) at 7:30AM and are locked at 5:00PM.
    If you wish to depart or enter at times other than those above, please notify the Operation Center in advance.
    Also, please note that the office is closed on weekends and on national and Hawaiian state holidays.
  • At the front door of the office there is a notice board to indicate people’s whereabouts. When you arrive for work, please add a note to indicate that you have done so. Please leave a similar note when you leave. A detailed explanation will be provided at the Operation Center when you arrive.
Use of the Laboratory
  • For teachers interested in exchange study, a laboratory is available for visitors during their stay at the Hawaii Observatory.
  • The visitors’ laboratory is equipped with a network connection. Please use it as needed.
  • If you wish to connect an outside computer to the network, please be sure to consult with the person in charge of computers.
Safety Management
  • When working at the Hawaii Observatory, a number of rules must be followed to ensure safety. Be sure to comply strictly with these rules, as infractions can result in danger not only to you but to those working with you as well.
  • To prevent accidents and disasters at the facility and secure a safe environment, the Hawaii Observatory has prepared the Hawaii Observatory Safety Management Manual (an online version is currently being prepared). Please conduct your work in accordance with the rules contained in this manual.
Traffic In and Out of the Mountaintop Facilities
  • If you must ascend the mountain for work or observation purposes, please consult with the person in charge of acceptance regarding traffic procedures.
  • There are three ways to reach the peak from the foot of the mountain. First, visitors can drive their own passenger vehicles. Second, they can obtain a ride in a passenger vehicle driven by an Observatory staff member. Finally, visitors can take a shuttle from the base of the mountain to Hale Pohaku and transfer for the remainder of the drive to a passenger vehicle driven an operator or support astronomer.
  • The shuttle service is provided in consideration of astronomers wishing to pursue joint astronomical observation. Generally the service operates during the hours listed below.
    • From the base to Hale Pohaku: Departs Hilo at 1:30PM, arrives at Hale Pohaku at 2:30PM.
    • From Hale Pohaku to the summit: Departs Hale Pohaku at 2:30PM, arrives at the summit at 3:30PM.

    *Please note that the shuttle service does not run on days when no users are expected.

If you have decided in advance that you wish to use the shuttle service, please enter that fact in the designated field in the visitor application form. If for operational reasons you require shuttle service at a time other than that specified above, please consult with the Observatory Operation Center (1-808-934-5000).