On May 5th, Subaru Telescope staff showed up in force to participate in AstroDay festivities at Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo on the Island of Hawai`i. Founded locally in 2002 by Gary Fujihara, a former telescope operator at Subaru Telescope, AstroDay is part of a nationwide initiative to introduce community members to the wonders of science. Given the operation of world-class observatories on the Island of Hawai`i, AstroDay in Hilo has taken on an even deeper meaning to astronomers and other citizens over the years. AstroDay has become a tradition for both the community and the telescope staff. The astronomy community hosts a variety of free events to say "mahalo" (thank you) to their island neighbors. For the past eleven years, on the first Saturday in May, families have come to AstroDay to see the events put on by the astronomy community.
Twenty-eight astronomy-related organizations had booths at this year's AstroDay. Each one offered interesting activities and different insights into science. The Subaru Telescope used its ever-popular go-fishing game to teach children that some objects observed in the night sky are close (in our own Solar System) while others are far away (outside the Solar System).
Older children enjoyed using a remote control to drive a small model of the CIAX (Cassegrain Instrument Auto Exchanger), a cart that moves instruments to and from the Cassegrain focus of the telescope. (To see a picture of the actual CIAX cart go to http://www.naoj.org/photo/cassegrain.jpg). Staff from the Subaru Telescope also gave out spectrum cards so that visitors could see how different types of light sources, e.g., light bulbs, produce different spectra, often referred to as "rainbows".
They also gave out free posters of Subaru's discoveries to help people explore the Universe with the Subaru Telescope.
In addition to activities at booths, other events took place at a central stage. Local musicians entertained visitors, and winners of The Mauna Kea Coin Contest (http://mkooc.org/Coin2012/) received their awards. The coin contest returned for its second year and promises to become a popular tradition. Led by committee chair and astronomer Dr. Kumiko Usuda-Sato, the coin contest is sponsored by a variety of community organizations: The Mauna Kea Astronomy Outreach Committee (MKAOC), KTA Super Stores, `Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai`i, Onizuka Space Center, and the Galaxy Garden/Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary.
Every year, many Subaru Telescope staff members dedicate their time and enthusiasm to give back to their host community. This was the first AstroDay for several of the Subaru Telescope volunteers who are still new to the Island of Hawai`i. Subaru's new director, Dr. Nobuo Arimoto, joined staff in welcoming visitors to Subaru Telescope's booth. Mahalo to all who carry on this meaningful tradition! See you next year.