Viewing The Heavens

On the Big Island of Hawaii is the tallest mountain in the world.  Yes – I know what you’re thinking. Weren’t we always told that Everest was the tallest?

When measured from base to peak, the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the tallest at 10,100 meters or over 33,000 ft … however almost 60% of Mauna Kea is below sea level, making Everest the tallest mountain above the oceans.

Mauna Kea

What makes Mauna Kea significant is that it is one of the best places in the world for observing the stars.  Its location – almost on the equator – gives it a unique view of both the northern and southern skies.  When combined with its favourable weather conditions and low light pollution, its location is virtually perfect for viewing the heavens.

As a result, eleven countries have assembled the largest collection of telescopes on earth at its summit.  This was our destination one day while on vacation in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea 2

While most Hawaiian tourists obsess over the gorgeous weather and beaches, Gilles – aka Mr Science – was beside himself at the opportunity to visit this astronomer’s dream destination.

Gilles was disappointed to discover that we would not be visiting one of the observatories, and our guided tour of the night sky would be at outdoor telescopes setup in the thin, frigid air.

Mauna Kea 3

Only Gilles and I would go to a tropical island and end up shivering in Arctic outwear at almost 14,000 feet above sea level.  We were rewarded however with a stunning sunset and a dramatic view of the night sky in the complete blackness that quickly followed.

This post was inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Landscapes.

cees-fun-foto

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Nature, Outdoor Stuff, Photo Challenges, Random Stuff, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to Viewing The Heavens

  1. Jean says:

    We took a short bus ride up to Mauna Kea …to visit the national observatory up there and see the stars. This was in June over 20 yrs. ago. And man, the whole sky was covered in a carpet of stardust. Just awesome!!

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    • joannesisco says:

      That’s a really great way to describe it … a carpet of stardust!! There have been only 3 times in my life I can say I really saw the Milky Way … this was one of them. Awesome is exactly the word!!

      Like

  2. terryb says:

    What an awesome trip! You can always dress for the cold, but you can’t find a view like that just anywhere! Where I live here in the southern part of the Hudson Valley in NY it’s hard to find any place that is truly, truly dark for star gazing. looking at the sky from there on the mountain must have been absolutely breathtaking!

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  3. ChristineR says:

    Stunning photos, Joanne. The clouds look like an icy landscape.

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  4. Sue Slaght says:

    Joanne I will be doing a post just after Xmas featuring the op commenters on my blog as decided by WordPress. You are one of them. Thank you! Is it all right with you if I say a few kind sentences about you and link back to your blog?

    Like

  5. Phil Taylor says:

    Wow! That sounds awesome! I wish I had known about that 5 years ago when I visited Hawaii. I guess now I’ve got another reason to go back.

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  6. la_lasciata says:

    Veinards !!! Stringer would’ve given his back teeth to go there. We once made a corporate video for the CSIRO when their big array was first built; and he was obsessed with all things heavenly.

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  7. I love that first photo where you’re above the clouds. I know someone who works up there and have seen some glorious photos. What an adventure, albeit a cold one!

    janet

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  8. Cee Neuner says:

    Beautiful landscapes for this week. I really appreciate your point of views. Spectacular.

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  9. jannatwrites says:

    I had to laugh at your comment about going to Hawaii and wearing arctic wear instead of going to the sunny beaches. I’m not much for beaches, so this actually looks like it would be fun. When we went to Maui a couple years ago, we went to Haleakalā National Park- the summit was 10,000 feet, but still a stunning view 🙂

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    • joannesisco says:

      We only visited the Big Island and I’d really like to go back one day to Maui.
      I’m not a beach bunny either, but we also spent quite a bit of time snorkelling which was spectacular! I’m never experienced so many exotic fish – and turtles – in shallow water.

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  10. Fantastic, Joanne. I would have loved to be right there with you and Gilles observing the night sky. I’ve had two recent experiences learning about the night sky which I won’t bore you with here, but isn’t it just the most humbling and magnificent thing? You can understand why ancient peoples who actually were able to observe the real night sky without all the light pollution we have around us placed such significance on the various stars and constellations. Now this gives me a reason to want to go to Hawaii!!!

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  11. lumar1298 says:

    What beauty… I went to Hawaii and some of the islands in 1978 so I’m sure it has changed quiet a bit… After seeing your pics, would love to be back…

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    • joannesisco says:

      That’s the problem with travelling, isn’t it? There’s always somewhere new we would like to explore, but then there are favourites we’ve been to that we’d like to go back!

      Like

  12. LB says:

    Fascinating!! and what incredible views! Love that photo of the two of you (shivering) in Hawaii!

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  13. A very unlikely Hawaii post – why am I not surprised? Your photos are great – the one of observatories on the horizon with the multi-hued sky behind is amazing! And you are a cute couple.

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  14. Who needs Northern College to learn stuff about the earth? Wow, the places you’ve been Joanne! I would have never suggested that Hawaii was near the equator! I had this vague notion it was more northerly.

    Not that it’s likely that I’ll ever get to Hawaii, but if I do, I would LOVE to see the observatories and the night sky. With my own Mr. Science.

    I do enjoy your posts, Joanne. You manage to convey warmth and welcome in prose that is cool and clean.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Maggie – you’re always so kind with your comments 🙂

      Hawaii is north of the equator … but as far as observatories go, it’s location is considered near perfect.

      I would have had no reason to imagine a place like the Mauna Kea observatories even existed. Astronomy kind of makes my eyes glaze over like most science stuff … but Gilles’ enthusiasm can be contagious … or annoying, depending on the mood I’m in 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow, what an amazing addition to your holiday. Despite the cold, it must’ve been so worth it xx

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    • joannesisco says:

      You’re so right. Sometimes I roll my eyes at the things I get dragged into by Gilles. Freezing outside for a few hours staring at the sky wasn’t my idea of a good time, but I have to admit, our guides did an amazing job of making it really interesting … even for someone like me. I was wowed.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m with Gilles. I can see beaches any day but this… this is scientifically thrilling! Okay, so Hawaii goes on the bucket list. Sigh. Honestly, between you and Sue….

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    • joannesisco says:

      Most science things make my eyes glaze over … anything related to physics and astronomy would make the top of the list.
      I have to admit though … this was a wow, even if I was highly skeptical and dragged along somewhat reluctantly.

      I must say that in spite of all travelling I’ve done, my list of places I’d like to go never gets smaller.

      Like

  17. bulldog says:

    That does not look the warmest place on earth… our Sutherland is where there is a big observatory…. one of the coldest places in RSA

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  18. NancyTex says:

    I would absolutely layer on the clothing and hike that puppy (dragging Mr Enthusiasm along with me) 🙂

    Looks pretty awesome to me!

    Like

  19. Well why be touristy, right? Gorgeous shots whatever the cost! I’ve never been to Hawaii, I envy you!!

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    • joannesisco says:

      There is always the path less beaten … and it’s bound to be interesting!!

      I was expecting Hawaii to be over-the-top touristy and was pleasantly surprised. We visited only the Big Island and it’s managed to stay remarkably uncommercial. I would happily go back.
      From what I’ve heard, some of the other islands make up for it 🙂

      Like

  20. I didn’t know that Mt Mauna Kea is technically the tallest mountain. Funny that you were shivering in the tropics. Love the sunset photos 🙂

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  21. Growing up in Alaska, I was taught that while Mt. Everest’s peak is higher above sea level, its base is also at a fairly high level, and that Mt. McKinley was the tallest in the world from base to peak, of land based mountains. (Not counting islands like Hawaii.) 🙂

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  22. Sammy D. says:

    I would love to return to that magnificent island. We did not make it to the top of the highest mountain last time! You are so cute in your arctic gear, and thank you for sharing these previously unknown factoids!

    Like

  23. Sue Slaght says:

    I did not know about the international observatories Joanne. Since we are kindred spirits , or possibly sisters separated at birth, you will be pleased to know Dave and I almost froze to bits watching the sunrise on the summit of Haleakala Maui before cycling down it. Apparently you two aren’t the only ones getting frostbite on a beach holiday. 🙂
    Love the photo of the two of you by the way.

    Like

  24. Wow. That m.u.s.t. have been a blast (yes of cold too), and so close to heaven… 😮

    Like

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