Meteor fans flock
to Hanauma Bay

The Perseid response stirs sky guides
to plan a November encore

By Helen Altonn

Islanders were lucky to see one meteor during the Perseid showers Sunday night, but Monday night was better viewing, said Mike Shanahan, Bishop Museum Planetarium manager.

The planetarium drew crowds of 600 to 700 people from midnight until 2 a.m. on each of those nights to watch the shooting stars from Hanauma Bay.

The events were so popular that the planetarium will try to do something at Hanauma or elsewhere for the Leonid shower in November, Shanahan said.

He said the show Sunday night was disappointing. The only view was through holes in the clouds. "Most folks saw one meteor (the whole night)." He wandered around and "talked about the sky you would see behind those clouds if the clouds go away," he said.

On Monday night, "We had a really beautiful sky," he said. Some clouds were here and there, but all in all, the whole two hours we could see the majority of the sky."

Still, he said, "Even though the Perseids are reliable, there was more like one shooting star every 15 minutes instead of one every minute for a dynamite shower."

Sunday night, cars were lined up back to the Hawaii Kai shopping center to get into the Hanauma Bay parking lot, Shanahan said.

"We promised an 11:30 (p.m.) opening and when we got there at 9:30 cars were waiting to get in. We were expecting smaller numbers."

Opening the gate 45 minutes early took care of the traffic jam Monday night, he said. The staff also was increased to 12 from four, with five Hawaiian Astronomical Society volunteers joining the planetarium staff.

"We had gotten a little PA system and talked more about the history of the comet and causes of shooting stars," Shanahan said.

He said he'll have to rethink the operational aspects if such an event is held again but the planetarium wants to accommodate public interest.

"Folks will turn out for interesting, unique, natural occurrences."

The Perseid shower -- debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet -- occurs every August.

Many teenagers and people on dates were among spectators at Hanauma Bay, Shanahan said. "We're reaching a different audience."

Bishop Museum

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