Dome to be installed on Lanihuli Observatory on June 25

Windward Community College
Joe Ciotti, (808) 236-9111
Department of Natural Sciences
Posted: Jun 21, 2007

KANEʻOHE— On Monday, June 25 around noon (weather permitting), the rotating dome that will house a 16-inch reflecting telescope will be hoisted by crane onto the roof of Lanihuli Observatory at Windward Community College.

The Lanihuli Observatory will be used by students enrolled in the college's astronomy courses and Hawaii Space Grant program, as well as by the thousands of K-12 students who visit the Imaginarium and Aerospace Exploration Lab at Windward Community College. The observatory will also be made available to the community after public Imaginarium shows.

Visitors will be able to view the planets, moon and stars through a 16-inch optical telescope, listen to the sounds of Jupiter, the sun and Milky Way galaxy with the college's radio telescope operated in affiliation with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and watch real-time images of the weather conditions surrounding the Hawaiian Islands with the observatory's weather satellite tracking station. The facility also includes a 6-inch solar heliostat for extra large-scale views of the sun. While the optical telescope will be used primarily for evening viewing, the solar telescope will allow thousands of school children to observe the sun in a safe and unique way during the day.

In addition, a radio telescope for listening in on Jupiter and the sun will operate from the control room in affiliation with NASA‘s Radio Jove Project. Data collected from this radio telescope is already available to classrooms across the country via the Internet. A NOAA weather satellite tracking station will allow students to view live images of Hawaiʻi‘s cloud cover and weather.

"The Lanihuli Observatory will open up the wonders of the universe to the 12,000 K-12 student visitors who already visit WCC's Imaginarium each year," Astronomy Professor Dr. Joseph Ciotti said. "The observatory will bring them intimately closer to the rich heritage of Polynesian navigation and modern astronomical discoveries on Mauna Kea. Its 'wow' factor will inspire the natural curiosity of our youth to explore, to learn, and to appreciate."

The project‘s total budget is just under $850,000.

"One of the exciting aspects of this project is that it has been almost entirely constructed with private donations. Our community has recognized the value of the observatory for our students and the students of tomorrow, and has stepped up to make it happen," said WCC Chancellor Angela Meixell.

Along with dozens of individuals and families, the following private foundations, corporations and state agencies have helped WCC‘s dream of Lanihuli Observatory become a reality:
American Savings Bank
First Hawaiian Bank Foundation
Harold K.L. Castle Foundation
Hardware Hawaiʻi
Hawaii State Capital Improvements Projects
Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium
Hawaiian Electric Company
Kamaʻaina Kids
Minami Community Foundation
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 AFL-CIO
Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training Grant
University of Hawaiʻi Facilities Management
Physical Facilities, Planning and Construction (UHCC)UH Foundation

The following contractors were involved in the design and building of Lanihuli Observatory: Engineering Solutions (architectural firm), Western Engineering (building contractor), Ash Manufacturing Company (dome manufacturer) and High Tide Builders (installation).

Major instrumentation was purchased from the following companies: Meade Instruments Corporation (16-inch optical telescope), ObservatoryScope (solar heliostat), Telonics (NOAA satellite tracking station) and Richard Flagg Associates & Radio-Sky Publishing (radio telescope).

WCC is currently home to a unique science outreach program that serves approximately 12,000 children, parents, and teachers annually and includes: The Aerospace Exploration Lab—A hands-on science exploratorium where teachers from public and private schools can bring students to experience enrichment activities, including static and interactive exhibits and a lending library. Hōkūlani Imaginarium—This multi-media facility has the capacity to project 3-dimensional animated images of virtually any object or environment. Audiences experience a simulated educational experience such as voyaging across the surface of a planet or a journey into the vent of an active volcano. NASA Flight Training Aerospace Education Laboratory—This lab houses ten computer stations, each equipped with a different educational program (e.g., flight simulator, aerodynamics with a wind tunnel, weather analysis, GPS unit, and a zero-g drop tower). This training facility, which operates in affiliation with NASA Glenn Research Center, offers both self-guided and instructor-led learning tools for grades 6 and above.

For more information about the Lanihuli Observatory, please contact Dr. Joe Ciotti at 236-9111 or or visit

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