(BIVN) – A pair of famous political figures made the trip to Mauna Kea recently. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to the summit in early January 2018 where they learned about the cultural, natural and scientific significance of the mountain.
The University of Hawaiʻi just posted the photos from the evening trip, in which the Clintons had the chance tour the W. M. Keck Observatory and even do a little stargazing.
According to the University of Hawaiʻi:
The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy set up two, 9.25-inch telescopes, one with an attached camera capturing images viewed through the telescope. The Clintons were in awe during the 90 minutes of viewing the overwhelming number of stars that can be seen from Maunakea.
“We showed them the Orion nebula, Pleiades open cluster and Andromeda galaxy, and towards the end, Mrs. Clinton chose a couple of objects and moved the telescope herself,” said Marianne Takamiya, UH Hilo astronomy chair. Takamiya hosted the stargazing along with UH Institute for Astronomy astronomer Mark Chun, Waiākea High School senior Alicia Chun and UH Hilo astronomy student Mitchel Rudisel.
“Getting to show the Clintons different nebula and galaxies while sitting below one of the darkest skies in the world was an unforgettable experience,” said Rudisel.
“Both were a delight to talk to,” said Alicia Chun. “Mrs. Clinton asked how old I was, and I blanked for a second.”
The UH article also stated “the Clintons learned why Maunakea is the best site in the world for astronomy and why it is the center for astronomy in the United States.”
“The Clintons were also told the history of astronomy on Maunakea and how UH was not only tasked to pursue astronomy, making it the world’s premiere program, but of its responsibility and commitment to protect the mountain resources, according to Office of Maunakea Management Director Stephanie Nagata,” UH News reported.
Coincidentally, president Clinton is indirectly connected to the events on Mauna Kea in 2015, when thousands mobilized to oppose the construction of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on the mountain. While the opposition to the TMT observatory was driven largely by concerns over “desecration” of the sacred temple of Mauna Kea, there was also a Hawaiʻian sovereignty component to the situation.
In 1993, President Clinton signed what has become known as the “Apology Resolution”, a Joint Resolution of the U.S. Congress that “apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States” and acknowledged that the “indigenous Hawaiʻian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.”
Many who stood on the mountain in 2015 believe Hawaiʻi is under an illegal, prolonged occupation by the United States according to international humanitarian law. This video was published in 2015: