Visit the Subaru Telescope at Hawaii for Astronomical Research

© National Astronomical Observatory

When it comes to astronomical observation and research, the Subaru Telescope boasts of having the largest monolithic primary mirror in the world with a diameter of 8.2m. However, most people may not know that this state of the art Subaru Telescope is installed in Hawaii.


The Metrology Camera System, which is attached to the observation focus – Cassegrain reflector– of the Subaru Telescope, arrived from Taiwan during April 2018. After the motion test, the telescope is currently used for full-scale astronomical research. But the question is, why is Japanese astronomical research doing on the island of Hawaii?


Ideal place for astronomical research to be completed

© National Astronomical Observatory

The Subaru Telescope is installed at the summit of a dormant volcano Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island. Mauna Kea is situated 4,205m above the sea level and is also known to be the highest peak in Hawaii. You can even find snow piled up at the cap of the mountain.


Astronomical observation requires certain conditions for proper research. Fortunately Mauna Kea in Hawaii provides all the optimum conditions. High altitude, fine weather, dry air, and stable wind positions are the conditions that are important for astronomical research. All of these conditions can be found here, which is why it is the perfect place to install the Subaru Telescope. Furthermore the city of Hawaii is sparse and there is abundance of nature. At night, the entire area gets enveloped with darkness. Thus this makes the environment free of any sort of light pollutants which makes it really ideal for astronomical research.


On Mount Mauna Kea, there are 13 observation facilities of 11 countries from all over the world gathered here for cosmology research including United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This sanctuary for astronomical research is managed by the University of Hawaii, and the land is designated to the research organizations of each of the countries.


The headquarters of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has all the offices, laboratories, and areas where observation equipment is stored located at the foot of Mauna Kea. It takes about two hours by car to travel from the headquarters to reach where the Subaru Telescope is standing.


Things to watch out for when observing from Subaru Telescope

© National Astronomical Observatory

With such a premier astronomical observatory, the Subaru Telescope offers a tour up close with the powerful telescope for anyone who is above the age of 16. If you are planning for a unique experience in Hawaii, you must not miss out on this guided tour that takes you to the summit of Mauna Kea. You get a chance to look at the stunningly starry sky, which is indeed an awesome and fascinating experience. There are other celestial objects that you can see with the Subaru Telescope as well. In addition, if you make a reservation in advance, there is a chance to enjoy the entire tour all by yourself. You will be guided around the observation deck for about 45 minutes by the knowledgeable staff.


If you are driving a regular vehicle (2-wheel drive), you will stop at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (altitude of 2,775m). As the road further up to the summit is very steep and not paved, only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed to proceed. In order to prevent altitude sickness, it is very important for visitors to acclimatise to the change in altitude at the visitor centre. Thus it is recommended to take a break for about an hour at theOnizuka Centre before continuing the journey. Furthermore, there may be times when tours get suspended due to bad weather or some other unexpected situations.


The global astronomical research facilities are gathered in Hawaii. Going up Mauna Kea and reaching the summit of the mountain to visit the Subaru Telescope may not be an easy task, but this is certainly an interesting option to consider if you are planning a Hawaii trip. For cosmology lovers, make sure to plan a trip to the Subaru Telescope at least once!

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