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AstroDay Gives Community Chance to Geek Out About Astronomy, Science

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Keiki and other community members check out one of the booths provided by a participating organization Saturday, May 14, during AstroDay at Prince Kūhiō Plaza in Hilo. (Photos by Nathan Christophel)

At least one future astronaut, a burgeoning paleontologist and hundreds of others of all ages and sizes got to space out Saturday, May 14, at Prince Kūhiō Plaza in Hilo during AstroDay.

The event, sponsored by the Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee, offered attendees a chance to learn about discoveries being made and work being done by astronomers and other scientists on the Big Island and elsewhere in the islands.

This year’s overall winning Maunakea Coin Contest design was created by Luche Angelina Mardie Asuncion Ganot, a junior at Pāhoa High and Intermediate School.

More than 20 organizations participated, giving demonstrations and telling everyone who stopped by their booths about what they do — sharing their passion for science and technology. There were gadgets to look through, stars to observe, a cutout photo prop of a black hole to take your picture with and so much more. Even “Star Wars” was represented during AstroDay, with a Stormtrooper patrolling the halls of the Hilo mall and a couple of lightsabers to wield.

Programs and events on the main stage also provided entertainment and the chance to Ask an Astronomer about space. There were prize giveaways, and the winners of the annual Maunakea Coin Contest were announced.

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This year’s overall winning coin design was made by Luche Angelina Mardie Asuncion Ganot, a junior at Pāhoa High and Intermediate School. The overall second-place design was created by Ros Haleyah Mari A. Ganot, an eighth-grader at Pāhoa High and Intermediate, and the third-place design was made by Ella Haruko Tanimoto, a fourth-grader at Waimea Elementary School.

The commemorative coin features artwork designed by a Big Island student that includes elements of culture, astronomy and nature found on or around Maunakea.

No matter why they came, those who attended AstroDay 2022 had plenty of opportunities to geek out.

Nohea Nicoll, one of the many keiki attending this year, told Big Island Now that her favorite part about AstroDay is all of the activities. She also enjoys learning about what scientists and astronomers are doing.

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“My favorite part in AstroDay is where I can learn new things about astronomy,” Kekai Navor-Kahalewai, who was attending Saturday’s event with ‘ohana, told Big Island Now.

And it’s not just keiki and members of the public who enjoy AstroDay.

“AstroDay is wonderful because it gives an opportunity for outreach in our community,” Jasmin Silva, who works with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and East Asian Observatory, told Big Island Now during the event while she manned the observatory’s booth. “When I grew up in Hilo, I got to visit events like AstroDay which inspired me to pursue astronomy.”

She hopes AstroDay inspires others, too.

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“I hope that at least, at each AstroDay, we can get one future scientist,” Silva said. “That’s the most important thing to me.”

Tishanna Ben, who works for the National Solar Observatory, which built and manages the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakalā on Maui, said her favorite part of AstroDay is simply the community coming together, getting to see all the new people and all of the excited faces of those ready to learn about science and the different types of research happening throughout Hawai‘i.

“I love bringing community and astronomy together,” Ben told Big Island Now during the event. “It’s a really fun event, really engaging.”

If you weren’t able to make it out Saturday to the Hilo mall, don’t fret. There will be another chance to take a journey into space with astronomers and scientists later this year, with an AstroDay being planned at Kona Commons in Kailua-Kona, likely in November.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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