On a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii last month, one of the activities we enjoyed the most was stargazing on the mountain of Mauna Kea. We chose to take a guided tour and leave the driving to the professionals since the road up the mountain can be quite rough. Of the 14 people in our tour there were people from all over the United States as well as Canada, Australia and Japan. The tour lasted for approximately six hours so we had lots of time to get acquainted with our fellow travelers, which is half the fun of traveling.
After an informal dinner halfway up the mountain, we proceeded to the top of the mountain where we watched the sunset which was quite spectacular. It was quite cold at the summit and we were provided with parkas and mittens to ward off the cold.
There are multiple observatories on the top of the mountain used by professional astronomers from all over the world. The lack of air pollution and light pollution makes Mauna Kea one of the best locations for stargazing in the world.
After watching the sunset we proceeded back down the mountain to the visitors center, which is midway between the top and bottom of the mountain. There our guide set up a telescope and we took turns getting a closer look at the stars and constellations while munching on brownies and drinking hot chocolate. The tour ended at about 11:00 at night which made for a long but fun evening.
Stargazing is both inspiring and humbling. If you ever get to the Big Island of Hawaii, Mauna Kea is an excellent place to appreciate the beauty of the stars.