"What is the closest star to us?" "What does Subaru mean?"
On May 2, 2015, AstroDay, the Prince Kuhio Plaza mall in Hilo, Hawai'i was packed with space explores of all ages, who were asking the Subaru Telescope staff various questions. Celebrating astronomy and Hawaiian culture, this family-friendly annual event, AstroDay, started 14 years ago. Since its inception, the Subaru Telescope has been playing an integral role in AstroDay, together with the other Maunakea observatories.
The day started with a powerful Hawaiian chant by a cultural practitioner and former Maunakea ranger, Kimo Pihana, followed by performances by local musicians. Over 20 exhibits — from Maunakea observatories, University of Hawai'i at Hilo, 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, Maunakea Visitor Information center, Maunakea forest reforestation project, and local high schools — were placed throughout the shopping mall, sharing the joy and wonders of astronomy and science through a variety of hands-on activities, displays, and conversations.
The Subaru Telescope booth was well staffed with a total of 23 members, comprising astronomers, telescope operators, engineers, administration staff, and student interns. The observatory staff of various jobs and background were all there to share their passion and knowledge with the local community.
Children and adults alike enjoyed seeing rainbows using spectrum cards and learned that light is composed of different colors (wavelength). Next to the spectrum cards demonstration, the visitors were busy making bracelets using ultraviolet (UV) sensitive beads. These UV beads temporarily change their colors under sunlight (ultraviolet light) except when they are covered by sunscreen or put under sunglasses. Through these fun hands-on activities, well suited to this year's International Year of Light initiative, visitors learned the properties of light.
The space voyage game developed by a Subaru scientist Dr. Christophe Clergeon constantly attracted people of all ages. Visitors used a hand-held mini spaceship to travel across the solar system, whose travel path was made with a wire. Every time the metal ring of the spaceship touched the wire, the spaceship made a noise and the participant was asked questions about the Solar system. This engaging game spurred guests' curiosity about astronomy and space exploration, and was a catalyst for conversations with the staff.
AstroDay this year was yet another fun, successful event and all 23 Subaru Telescope staff who participated were pleased to see so many happy, excited faces at the mall.