Star struck


POSTED: Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shooting stars above the lagoon at Ko'olina had onlookers emitting plenty of oohs and aahs. But, they weren't the only things attracting attention.

Gregory McCartney of Stars Above Hawaii set up oversize telescopes that offered a glimpse of Jupiter, Hercules, Uranus and an array of star clusters overhead.

Shelby Gamboa, troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 820, was among those attending a recent “;Star Show”; event with a handful of Scouts aiming to earn their Space Explorer patch.

“;They study the night sky and write what they see,”; Gamboa said. The girls also had attended McCartney's summer sessions for a glimpse of Saturn and Hercules.

“;We could see the things in space. ... It was a good opportunity to see things close up,”; said 10-year-old Marie Sonson, who enjoyed hearing stories about the stars as well.

McCartney told them how the varying colors of stars reflected their temperatures. Reddish-colored stars are cooler than yellow colors, and blue stars are among the hottest.




Stars Above Hawaii membership fees are $39, $34 for seniors over 65, $17 for children or $69 for a family of two adults plus $4 per child. Benefits include unlimited star shows at the Ko'olina Resort & Marina, a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt and a star guidebook, “;Polynesian Star Lines and Hawaiian Astronomy.”; Visit www.starsabovehawaii.com or call 291-2464.



Attendees took turns with McCartney's hand-held devices, including high-powered binoculars set up on tripods and multimedia GPS gadgets that allow users to identify objects in the sky by pointing the unit in their direction. The unit provides information through an audio headset.

“;Audio headsets provide a wealth of information as to what they are looking at, how far away it is, what constellation it is located in and so on,”; said McCartney, who also talks about Polynesian voyagers' relationship to the night sky, providing the Hawaiian names of each of the stars discussed.

Curiosity about the universe is universal. The star shows attract visitors from around the globe, according to McCartney. “;Our goal is to provide each attendee to the star show with an enjoyable evening experience in astronomy through the art of stargazing that we hope they will remember for the rest of their lives,”; he said.

He uses and 11- and 14-inch telescopes that allow people to view 40,000 objects within each of their databases.

“;Our 14-inch telescope is the largest recreational telescope available for use on Oahu. This means we are able to go anywhere in the universe and see the unseen,”; he said. Among phenomena that can be viewed are the rings of Saturn, the bands of Jupiter, all the planets in our solar system, stars, star clusters and nebulae. “;We are capable of seeing other galaxies located millions of light-years away.”;

“;It's a good opportunity ... and so neat. With the naked eye you can't see any of this,”; said star gazer Colleen Matsuoka.

FOR A LITTLE more than the fee of one session, individuals can become members of the Star Explorers of Hawaii and regularly attend stargazing sessions.

Matt Vidaurr became a member of the Star Explorers of Hawaii about a year ago.

“;I've always been interested in astronomy,”; he said. “;It's not like in grade school where you are learning things from a textbook; we get to see things firsthand through the telescope.”;

Vidaurri tries to attend a stargazing session at least once a month because the night sky is ever changing, he explained. Among the most interesting images he's viewed are the Ghost of Mars and Jupiter's many moons.

McCartney, a member of the Friends of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and a NASA ambassador, keeps up on the most recent findings and scientific information so he can pass them on to members.

“;NASA launched a pod that landed on the moon, and we could see that. Sometimes we catch satellites crossing,”; said Vidaurri, who appreciates the opportunities presented by the program. “;It's the only time I was able to see the Milky Way ... maybe because it was so dark.”;

“;The experience is thought-provoking, memorable and fun for people of all ages who wish to moonlight or even romance under the stars,”; McCartney said.

“;The sky may be the limit for many, but the universe knows no bounds. Look up and always reach for the stars.”;

Windward offers regular sky shows

Native Hawaiian astronomer Paul Coleman will present the lecture “;Makahiki in Old Hawaii”; at Windward Community College from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The discussion explores the astronomical and cultural perspectives of the Makahiki festival and is sponsored by Windward Community College's Center for Aerospace Education as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebration.

Coleman is an associate astronomer with the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy where he performs research and teaches astronomy. Admission is free.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies.

Windward Community College's Center for Aerospace Education will host a variety of special events throughout 2009 to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy. For a list of special events at Windward Community College, visit aerospace.wcc.hawaii.edu/imaginarium.html.

The Hokulani Imaginarium, Windward Community College

The Lanihuli Observatory is open to the public following 7 p.m. Friday shows, weather permitting. The cost is $5 general; $4 for UH students, military and seniors over 65; $3 for ages 12 and under. Tickets may be purchased 30 minutes prior to the show, or call 235-7433 to reserve.

» Stargazing shows: Live star shows take place the first Wednesday monthly. Next show is Dec. 9.

» “;Larry the Cat in Space”;: Designed for children in grades kindergarten to 3, the show focuses on a curious cat that ventures to the moon, Nov. 27.

» “;Star of Bethlehem”;: The Magi's Story: An exploration of the astronomical possibilities for the star that guided the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. Dec. 11, 18, 19 and 20.

Bishop Museum

“;The Sky Tonight”;: Takes place at 8 p.m. the first and third Fridays monthly. No late seating; arrive by 7:45 p.m. Telescope viewing is offered after the program, weather permitting.

The cost is $6 for adults, $4 for ages 4 to 12, free for members. Reservations recommended. Call 848-4168.

The daily planetarium schedule follows:

» “;The Sky Tonight”;: See what's up in our Hawaii skies, 11:30 a.m.

» “;Explorers of Polynesia”; (in Japanese) at 12:45 p.m.; 1:30 p.m. in English. Journey to Tahiti in the planetarium and learn some of the techniques of navigating by the stars as practiced by modern Hawaiian navigators.

» “;The Explorers of Mauna Kea”;: From the peak of the largest mountain on Earth, scientists explore the universe with some of the world's best telescopes. Learn why Hawaii is an ideal spot for the science of astronomy and why early Hawaiians revered this great White Mountain, 3:30 p.m.

For more information on planetarium programs, call 847-8235.