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Why Look Up book cover
Tantisira’s 24-page book published in January 2024.

Brighten Tantisira has accomplished what many only dream of: becoming a published author. And he is only 17 years old! This January, the King Kekaulike High School senior penned the children’s book, Why Look Up? (An Introduction to Our Fascinating Universe for Young Students and Novices).

Tantisira holding a book
Brighten Tantisira

Tantisira is an alumnus of the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy’s mentorship program HI STAR. The Maui native said it’s always been a dream to educate keiki about outer space.

“I wanted this book to introduce kids, who may not have the option otherwise, to learn more about our fascinating universe,” Tantisira said. “I actually took original photos of different objects, such as galaxies and star clusters, through Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO). These images were then included in my book. This was an amazing experience!”

Las Cumbres Observatory enables students like Tantisira to utilize their global network of telescopes. The aspiring astronomer’s goal for his book is to provide kids a digestible introduction to various celestial topics such as moons, exoplanets, nebulae, protostars, stars and supernovae.

Starry nights in Kula

whirlpool galaxy
Whirlpool galaxy

Tantisira’s fascination with the cosmos stems from his childhood in Upcountry Maui. Growing up in Kula, he remembers nights filled with stars, unobstructed by city lights. These sights eventually instilled a sense of wonder, sparking philosophical questions like ‘Are we alone in the universe?’ ‘What’s out there?’ and ‘How did we get here?’

“Studying astronomy, you get to learn our place in the universe and truly what’s beyond our little bubble on Earth. It’s very fascinating,” Tantisira said.

Last spring, Tantisira served as lead author in a peer-reviewed paper on double stars for The Journal of Double Star Observations. The research project utilized data collected by the UH-operated Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System on Halekalā.

southern pinwheel galaxy
Southern pinwheel galaxy

“I’m really amazed by Brighten’s book. I think that it will inspire so many kids, including me,” said UH IfA outreach astronomer J.D. Armstrong who mentors Tantisira.

Now, Tantisira hopes to ignite that same sense of wonder in young readers, encouraging them to look up and ponder the vastness of space.

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