Origins of astronomy in Hawaii

Author: Steiger, Walter
Title: Origins of astronomy in Hawaii
Year: 1995
Subject: Astronomy Hawaii history
Navigation Polynesia
Mauna Kea history
Summary: This document gives a history of what astronomy meant to the early Hawaiians and how the gods, especially the demi-god, Maui, was known for such astronomical deeds as snaring the Sun to slow its passage across the sky, or how a magical fishhook, that was used to fish up the Hawaiian Islands out of the deep ocean, resembled what is known to Western astronomers as the stinger in Scorpio. The author goes on to describe how the early Polynesians, who were high skilled sailors and navigators, used their knowledge of the stars to sail thousands of miles over open ocean. He also describes King Kalakaua's interest in astronomy and his desire to see an observatory established in Hawaii, as was written in a letter that was sent to Captain R. S. Floyd on 22 November 1880. Mention is also made of how the King purchased a telescope from England in 1883 for Punahou School. The author goes on to describe how the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1910 stirred the interest of the citizens of Honolulu and how the construction of the first observatory that was built on Ocean View Drive in Kaimuki, that was in the vicinity of Diamond Head, on the island of Oahu. The minor role that radio astronomy play in the early days is described and mention is made of how the growing number of amateur astronomers eventually lead to the organization of an astronomical society that was formed in 1948. This interest in astronomy eventually led to the success in raising financial support for the construction of a planetarium and observatory at the Bishop Museum. The author describes the IGY period (International Geophysical Year 1957-58), which placed Hawaii in a crucial position, in both latitude and longitude, for a number of geophysical observations in a worldwide network and describes the eventual operation MOONWATCH. This lead to the Haleakala Period where the construction of a solar observatory occurred which eventually lead to the construction of a small solar observatory that was built on the summit of Mauna Loa, known as the Mauna Loa Observatory. Studies were then done on the summit of Mauna Kea that proved this site to be ideal for astronomy due to its dry atmosphere and low water vapor. This led to the construction of the University of Hawaii's 88-inch telescope, the first of many future telescopes.
Database: Monographs

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