(BIVN) – The 18th annual AstroDay was held at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo on Saturday, honoring international Astronomy Day—a global celebration of astronomical sciences.
This year’s flagship event, put together by the Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee, included over 40 exhibits, demonstrations and activity areas.
“Astro Day is one of our favorite events of the year,” said Carolyn Kaichi, education/outreach specialist for the University of Hawai‘i Institute for Astronomy at Hilo, in a media release. “It does not get much better than seeing all the keiki and their ohana engaged in astronomical discovery.”
Pōwehi, the first black hole to be directly imaged by a planet-scale array of eight observatories (including two from Mauna Kea), took center stage at one booth.
“We’re really excited our booth is all about Pōwehi,” said Steve Mairs with the East Asian Observatory’s James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. “I’m very proud to say was part of that worldwide project to get the very first image of a black hole. We have kids coming from elementary school all the way through high school who are pulling their parents over and saying, that’s the black hole we saw that on Google!”
Heather Flewelling, a planetary defense researcher at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa Institute For Astronomy, dressed in a purple “space kitty” outfit, said “when I was a little kid I never would have guessed I would discover a comet. Women are underrepresented in our field and for little kids to see that female scientists can discover comets and do cool things, I think it shows them that they can do this, too.”
Joanna Camille Afaga, a senior at Kea’au High School, won the Maunakea coin contest. The coins she designed will be sold at the Maunakea Visitor Information Station all year long and were distributed at the AstroDay event.
“We had hundreds of entries this year, so selecting the grand prize winner was challenging”, says Dr. Nadine Manset, astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and coin contest organizer. “I love this design it is a beautiful composition of the fauna and flora of Hawai’i, including a nene and ‘i’iwi, with Maunakea telescopes peering at the constellations above”