Quick question on Mauna Kea Observatory tour

Dec 13th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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Quick question on Mauna Kea Observatory tour

We're coming back from Australia to Vancouver and our ticket allows us to stopover in Hawaii...my husband has always wanted to see the Mauna Kea telescope and I understand we can take a star gazing tour/etc - do any of the tours include a visit into the station - i.e. in the telescope room (if that's the right term) or just an exterior view?

Need to book ticket shortly so any quick answers are appreciated
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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all of the tours take you to the summit but not into an observatory. the keck observatory has a visitor center open 10-4 m-f and the uh2.2 has a visitor center open 9:30-3:30 m-th, so that is the only way to go inside. at the mauna kea visitor center (9200 ft) they have telescopes set up. you have to be off the summit by dark so plan on some time at the visitor center.
matnikstym is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 09:17 AM
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matnikstym - do you mean we can go inside at Keck and/or uh2.2 or just go inside a visitor centre? Looking on their websites now and can't find a thorough sounding interior tour...thx for your quick response.
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 09:57 AM
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sounds like just the visitor center. they are very sensitive machines and don't think they'd allow a tour into the actual observatory.
matnikstym is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 10:40 AM
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Plus all the major telescopes are computerized now so you don't directly look at anything. We went to the visitor center below the summit and looked thru the telescopes there. Saw moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn. I thought it was great but if you have used a telescope of this power already, you will be disappointed. Can only use these telescopes after dark. It's a long trip from anywhere else on the island so you really must want to do this for it to be worthwhile. Plus very cold!! We still have the heavy sweatshirts we bought at the visitor center. Personally I would go to the volcano and I am very interested in stargazing.
Elainee is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 11:35 AM
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Thanks for the comments.......I know that we won't actually look into a telescope - but this is on my husband's life lists of things to see.....even (I guess) if it's just the glowing screens of a computer......

For example - we went to the linear accelorator at Stanford - didn't see the "real" thing but he loved it.

Any comments with that info?
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 11:44 AM
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Do you have any astronomer friends? Often a letter of reference, or even just a letter from you explaining your curiosity can open doors that are shut to the casual visitor.
lcuy is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 01:16 PM
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I only know of three ways to get a private tour of Keck:

1. Have or make friends at NASA
2. Have or make friends or the CIT/UC school systems
3. Apply and interview for a summit job with CARA

Other than that, the chances of getting to see the scopes and control room are pretty slim. But the CARA folks are super nice, and with a few smoozing letters you might develop the right contacts to get a tour.
fdecarlo is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 01:19 PM
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I have done Mauna Kea twice. First time with DH on a tour. We went to the top for sunset but no visiting inside any of the buildings. Second time we drove ourselves to the visitor center only.

Please remember that you go from sea level to at least 9000 ft. in less than 2 hours, going to the top means almost 14,000 ft. The elevation change can be a problem. I was very glad to go back to the visitor center after about 30 minutes at the top.

Hope things work out for you.
SuzieTrue is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 02:09 PM
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I seem to remember reading somewhere on the Mauna Kea website that on Saturdays they do a drive up to the observatories at 1pm (need 4 wheel drive)and will let you inside the Keck observation room. You never actually set foot inside but look in from a glass enclosed room. Meet at the visitor center. They then come down before dark and have the stargazing program after dark.

I tried driving to MK from the Hilo side but it was raining and visibility was poor -- plus this was my first night on the island and I chickened out and turned around after I saw one car accident (drove off the road and smashed the car). The Saddle Road drive is interesting -- we were unlucky with the weather that day.

Put Mauna Kea Observatories in search engine -- this tour is free I believe.
Miss_Maple is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 05:18 AM
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follow the link below -- and click on summit tour -- this is the free Saturday tour I mentioned in my previous post. You need 4 wheel drive -- they will not let you go up without it.

Miss_Maple is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 05:53 AM
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Thanks for posting this - I had read on the Keck website that they don't offer Summit tours - maybe that means *they* don't offer them but this tour does?

Will email to see if it's still available on Saturday - thanks!
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 08:09 AM
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Do this tour it's great. Did it once years ago. They have their own telescope that you can look thru. Keck's telescopes, as others have said, are computerized ones that you don't "look thru" to see anything. Here's a link


hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 08:59 AM
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they also set up telescopes at the main visitor center for all to use.
matnikstym is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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We drove to the top in a rented 4X4 Tahoe, it was slow going but not a particularly difficult drive (we live in mountain country). It is a bit thrilling driving on a 17 percent grade after dark on gravel roads, but is managable. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the stargazing show at the visitor's center after dark.

The park rangers suggest that you spend at least 30 minutes at the visitors center on the way up to "acclimate" to the altitude. We fudged on that a bit and paid the price. We all had pretty bad headaches and one of my daughters got a bit of nausea from the altitude. So stop for the recommended time on the way up, particularly if you are going to do any walking around on top.

Sunset from 14,000 feet is awesome. I was told that starting in 2005 the Suzuki telescope is open to organized tour groups and individuals on a reservation basis. I believe that the Suzuki telescope has a web site that talks about the tours.

If you go up, take warm clothes, fill your car before you start, and yield the road to the locals on the saddle road.

My family agrees that the Manua Kea trip is one of their favorite things we have done in Hawaii.
Spokaneman is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Depending on the weather, your scheduled tour could be cancelled. It was disappointing, but will try on our next visit.

We have been up 4 different times in daylight, on our own. I don't recommend wearing damp swimsuits & shorts with only damp beach towels for warmth either! Usually snow everywhere
enpleinair is offline  
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