“The world's largest astronomical observatory”
Hawaii is Earth's connecting point to the rest of the Universe. The summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii hosts the world's largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries. The combined light-gathering power of the telescopes on Mauna Kea is fifteen times greater than that of the Palomar telescope in California -- for many years the world's largest -- and sixty times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope. If you are planning to visit the summit, we highly recommend that you stop at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 ft to receive a current weather update, safety information, and to adjust to the change in altitude. Maunakea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility. At 14,000 feet, there is 40% less oxygen than at sea level, so visitors should acclimatize to the altitude before proceeding further up the mountain. Anyone in poor health should consult their physician before planning a visit to Maunakea. We do not recommend anyone who is pregnant to go further than the VIS. People under the age of 16 should not go any further because their bodies are still developing and they are affected more rapidly when going to a high altitude. If you plan to scuba dive, do not plan to go up to the summit within 24 hours after your dive. Furthermore, we do not recommend anyone with a heart or respiratory problem to travel above the VIS. We also highly recommend that only TRUE 4-wheel drive vehicles with LOW range travel beyond the VIS. About 300 yards beyond the station, the pavement ends and the next 4 and a half miles are a steep graded-gravel road. You should consult with your rental vehicle company or contract for a Maunakea Specific clause. Many rental companies do not allow their vehicles to continue on the the summit even if they are 4-wheel drive.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a view as breathtaking as you'll find here. You'll want to call ahead. It's an hour drive so if you go and it's cloudy you won't see any stars. So, call ahead and the staff will let you know if you should make the drive.
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Mauna Kea Observatories
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