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Subaru's Appreciation for Astronomy and the Local Community Shines Through the Galileo Block Party

December 4, 2009

Subaru Telescope's involvement permeated the Galileo Block Party-–a major Big Island event sponsored by the Mauna Kea Observatories Outreach Committee (MKOOC) to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Kumiko S. Usuda, Ph.D., Subaru's Outreach Scientist, chaired the Galileo Block Party Committee and led the development and organization of the event. During months of detailed planning, Subaru collaborated with the other observatories on Mauna Kea as well as with `Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai`i to prepare the way for almost 6 hours of activities from 1:30-7 pm on Saturday, October 24th.

The opening ceremony next to the Subaru Base Facility began with a traditional Hawai`ian chant, followed by Dr. Usuda's expression of appreciation to all of those who had worked so diligently to create the block party. Congratulations from Hawai`i Governor Lingle's office as well as Senator Inouye's envoy marked the significance of the occasion. Dr. Rose Tseng, Chancellor of the University of Hawai`i at Hilo, noted that it was "exciting to be part of a global event" and remarked that the "important work being done here is touching people all over the world". Dr. Masahiko Hayashi, Director of the Subaru Telescope, gave his "heartfelt thanks to the community for their support" and pointed out the issues facing modern astronomy—defining dark energy and discovering habitable extrasolar planets, “other worlds beyond our own.” County of Hawai`i Mayor Billy Kenoi concluded the initial festivities by thanking all of the observatories on Mauna Kea that are "at the center of the astronomy world" for extending our knowledge of the universe and being willing "to give to our most precious resources--our children."

Over a thousand people strolled along A'ohoku Street, where most of the observatories on Mauna Kea have their base facilities. A traditionally dressed "Galileo" wove his through the crowds and reminded the public of the importance of his first use of the telescope to view the skies 400 years ago.

Subaru staff supported the event in a variety of ways, from being available at the first aid station to being on hand at the information booth to answer questions and provide relevant handouts. Dr. Usuda designed special Galileo Block Party trading cards to add to the popular Mauna Kea Brand Astronomy Trading Cards that she created for distribution at AstroDay in May. Visitors could collect cards at different stations of activity and complete a set by going to most of the booths.

While solar observations, games, and demonstrations outside of the facilities were popular, special tours of some of the base facilities captured the interest of many participants. Subaru provided the most extensive tour of its base facility, with staff conducting 30-minute tours every 20 minutes. Filled to capacity and sometimes overflowing with adults and keiki, the tour groups were escorted from the main lobby to the remote observation room and the simulation lab. Demonstrations of how remote observations occur as well as discussions of the research and testing carried out in the simulation lab enlightened visitors about the significant work conducted at the facility.

Other activities for visitors included remote observation and informational displays about Subaru. Guests had a chance to use i-CAN, a web-camera network for viewing the night skies in other parts of the world, and then discuss their remote observations with some of Subaru's telescope operators and astronomers. In honor of Subaru's 10th anniversary since the telescope's first light, the lobby was filled with images of some of Subaru's significant discoveries as well as displays of the telescope's history and operation.

Visitors who toured the facility and those who explored the lobby displays often exclaimed how much they appreciated the chance to know more about Subaru and its role in the scientific and local community. Touring the facility was a highlight for adults and keiki alike. Some were so fascinated by the discussions of remote observation or the demonstrations and dialogue in the simulation lab that they wanted to stay much longer and learn more.

Wholehearted positive feedback from the visitors as well as the smiles and interest shown by the keiki confirm the success of the event. As intended, Subaru has demonstrated its appreciation to the local community by developing and implementing an engaging, educational experience for the Big Island.


Link: "Galileo Block Party" http://www.naoj.org/IYA/Blockparty


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