Ebay bidder wins
Big Island sky search

By Janis L. Magin
Associated Press

An anonymous buyer's $16,000 winning bid ended an online auction last week for a five-day trip to Hawaii's Big Island that includes a night of planet hunting with a well-known astronomer using one of the largest telescopes in the world.

The online fund-raising auction by the nonprofit Astronomical Society of the Pacific on e-Bay drew 10 bids from six bidders. The winner gets tours of the W.M. Keck Observatory headquarters and telescopes atop Mauna Kea and a night observing astronomer Geoff Marcy.

"We sent (the winner) an e-mail right after the auction closed," said Michael Bennett, executive director of the San Francisco-based Astronomical Society of the Pacific. "But through e-Bay his identity is protected and we haven't heard back from him."

The auction began Jan. 13 on e-Bay with an opening bid of $12,500 for the five-day trip, which had an estimated cash value of between $7,000-10,000. The rest of the money will go to the nonprofit society's education efforts to help schools teach astronomy.

"This was such an experiment we just didn't know what might happen," Bennett said. "We set the bid amount slightly above the worst case cost amount and hoped it would come in a couple of hundred dollars above."

The winning bidder gets two plane tickets to the Big Island from anywhere on the mainland, a rental car, meals and four nights in an ocean view room at the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort. Also included is an escorted tour of the W.M. Keck Observatory headquarters and the twin Keck telescopes atop 13,769-foot summit of Mauna Kea.

The guests will stay at the visiting scientist quarters on the observatory's campus in Kamuela on the observation night.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific
W.M. Keck Observatory

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