Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Years Eve On the top of Mauna Kea

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

Once you leave “The VIS” or visitors center at 9000 feet, you take the six mile dirt road up to the top. It is best to take a tour group if you want to go up. The road up is a narrow, steep, dirt, wash-board and has intimidating drop offs. I didn’t think it was too bad, but then, I’ve lived in the Colorado mountains before.

We poked up above the clouds, here I am representing Gloucester sporting a Cape Ann Brewing Company  polo. I’ve got a pretty cool connection with them that I’ll have to tell you about one of these days. That is other big mountain, Mauna Loa just peeking above the clouds to in the right. The temperature is dropping down to about 40F, down from the mid 50s at the VIS, and low 80s at sea level.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Mauna Loa is 13,677 feet above sea level to the south of Mauna Kea. Between them is a saddle point that is 6000 feet. The foreground looks a bit like a moon scape. Funny you you should mention that. Just around the corner from this lookout point is what they call the Valley of the Moon. NASA uses it to test planetary space vehicles.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Below is a snap of a cinder cone and Mauna Loa.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

This was my first glimpse of some of the observatories on the summit. As a physics student, I had heard about Mauna Kea and the observatories and never thought I’d ever get to go up. So this is pretty cool. Looking from left to right, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the spherical object under the mirror is the Caltech Submilimeter Observatory and to the right on the hill is the Japanese Subaru Telescope.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Subaru is the name used in Japan for the Pleiades constellation. And yes, the next time you see a Subaru automobile, look at the emblem.

Ski Mauna Kea. (Better bring your rock skis.)

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory ©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Our next stop was in front of the Caltech Submillimeter instrument. Yup the air is getting thin and the temperature, I’m guesstimating by the crunch of the snow was about 26F. ©2012 Steve Borichevsky

No problem, our tour company provides some roasty-toasty parkas. After all, it would suck to go all the way to Hawaii and freeze your tuches off in a snow bank. The tour guides gave explanations of each of the instruments on Mauna Kea. Of course, the light was doing its thing, so I had to do mine!

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory ©2012 Steve Borichevsky

We got to our final spot for the tour at 13,750 feet above sea level. A totally, freaking awesome spot. Oh look, an emergency van is ready just in case this mountain starts spinning and my face goes into the dirt!

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

One of my favorite shots of the Gemini North Observatory.

Gemini North Observatory ©2012 Steve Borichevsky

The UKIRT (United Kingdom Infrared Telescope) with the sun setting through the vog.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Always look around, you never know when you’ll get a cool photo op. I’d recommend this tour group. It was small and they took good care of us.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

Another shot of the Gemini North Observatory with the University of Hawaii 2.2M Telescope behind it. The doors are open and the lights will soon go dark in preparation for some good viewing.

Gemini North Observatory ©2012 Steve Borichevsky

And the sun goes into the cloud layer. The light levels are dropping low.

©2012 Steve Borichevsky

If you missed my Vog post, go check it out. For those of you that want to learn more about Mauna Kea’s instruments, here is a pretty cool video.


After the sun goes down, the tours must leave the mountain so that the instruments can do their job. We dropped down to 9000 feet for some star gazing through 11” scopes. It was great fun.


Judy said...

Wow!! You sure had a good time! My sister and BIL went to Hawaii, but didn't do anything fun like this! Some great shots of the upper side of the clouds!

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

A wonderful series and very interesting. Those sun on the snow and building shots are neat. But you are a show-off standing there in short sleeves. People like that while I am freezing...grrrr. (;^)

Roy said...

Some fabulous images Steve, thanks for showing us them.

Chris said...

I can see the clothing changed drastically from the beginning to the end. My, these third and 11th pictures are wonderful.

Frank said...

An awesome trip Steve and a very informative video link.

hamilton said...

You have presented a very different view of Hawaii!

Kim, USA said...

Oh my gush, these photos are amazing!!


Kelly said..., Steve! What a trip!!

Sylvia K said...

Fantastic trip, Steve! And what terrific captures! Lots of beautiful skies, too, as well as a very different and interesting look at Hawaii! Hope you have a great weekend!


bunnits said...

That was great, Steve. Thanks for the great photos and information.

Jim said...

Beautiful shots.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Spare Parts and Pics said...

thanks for this awesome post... really interesting and great photography!

Hundewanderer said...

This looks like! I have family in HI, but I haven't been there since the mid-70's. I really, really need to go back and visit, hike, and tour all these neat places now that I'm all grown up.

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