The Island of Hawaii, Hilo, and Subaru's base facility
September 11, 2000
So far, we have featured Subaru's seven primary instruments ("COMICS", "FOCAS", "CIAO", "OHS/CISCO", "IRCS", "Suprime-Cam", "HDS") and the cleaning of Subaru's primary mirror. This month, we look at the Island of Hawaii, the town of Hilo, and the base facility of Subaru Telescope.
The Hawaiian Islands are about four thousand kilometers southwest of the continental United States, and about six thousand kilometers from Japan. Hawaii is made up of 8 large islands and approximately 130 small islands, reefs and shoals. The city of Honolulu and nearby Waikiki Beach are on the Island of Oahu, which is home to three-quarters of the state's population of 1.2 million. Traveling from Honolulu, it takes about one hour by plane to reach the easternmost island in the chain, the Island of Hawaii. Hawaii Island is also known as the "Big Island" because it is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, more than twice the size of all the other islands combined.
Located on the east coast of the Big Island is the town of Hilo, with a population of approximately 40,000. The mean annual rainfall for Hilo is 3,300mm. This is more than three times that of New York City. Therefore, there are sayings here such as "Don't forget an umbrella even if you forget a lunch box!" Subaru Telescope's base facility is located just below Komohana Street on the west side of Hilo (Komohana means "West" in Hawaiian). Subaru's neighbors in the University Park of the University of Hawaii at Hilo are: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO); Gemini Observatory; Joint Astronomy Center (JAC) and the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA). Two other observatories, the Canada-France-Hawaii Observatory and the W. M. Keck Observatory, have their headquarters in Waimea, approximately an hour's drive northwest of Hilo.
The Hawaiian islands are volcanic in origin, and the Big Island was formed from five separate volcanoes, including Mauna Loa; Mauna Kea, which is home to the telescopes; and Kilauea, which has been active since 1983, adding 205 hectares to the southeast coast in that time. Hilo lies on the Mauna Loa volcanic shield and is on a gradual but steady slope, so that the facilities are high above most of the town and on a clear day provide views of Hilo Bay and the whole town.
Approximately 60 regular staff members work at the Subaru Telescope base facility. Since instrument team members also stay here temporarily while conducting test observations, the total number averages 70.
Princess Sayako visited the base facility in September 1999 when we had the dedication ceremony for Subaru Telescope. She planted a "Kukui" tree, the State tree of Hawaii. A monument was set up beside the tree to commemorate the occasion.
The Subaru Telescope itself is located at the summit of Mauna Kea, about a two hour drive from the base facility. In December of this year, Subaru will begin its Open Use operation and the base and summit facilities will be alive with astronomers from all around the world.