A Star Party for WHEA

They got lucky.

Cliff Livermore
Cliff setup and ready for viewers at WHEA.
I often caution folks scheduling star parties in Kona that the afternoon and evening clouds will often spoil the attempt. The large Hualalai volcano is the culprit here. In the afternoon the clouds form in the lee of the mountain and give Kona the afternoon showers that nourish the rich rainforest found on the upper slopes.

We try anyway.

WHEA, or West Hawaii Explorations Academy is a charter school located in the NELHA complex just north of Kona and just south of the airport. They concentrate on science, mostly marine science, with an outdoor hands-on curricula. Large pavilions serve as additional classrooms. The campus is littered with evidence of various projects, from large pools, various gardens, and a phalanx of handmade cargo pallet catapults in the back.

Maureen Salmi
Maureen using her big dob at WHEA.
The school was having an overnight camp-out on campus, providing a large crowd of students wanting a look through a telescope.

There were some clouds to hamper us, but nothing that would obscure the view for more than a minute or two. A nearly full moon, just a few days shy of this week’s eclipse, was beautiful in the telescope. We also had Saturn, still available in the evening sky at the head of Scorpio. As the evening passed so did the clouds, thinning to a few wisps across the sky.

Maureen was there with her big dob. Chris and Doris with the C-14, Brad with his twin refractor that shows the Moon beautifully. Cliff set up the C-11 giving us five telescopes in all, plenty of eyepieces to supply visions to waiting eyes. I need to spend a little time working on our NextStar GPS 11″, the motor control issue is back, I was running in manual mode much of the evening.

We gazed at the terrain of the Moon and I showed kids, and a few teachers, how to take photos with a cell phone through the eyepiece. A good school star party and a well spent Friday evening. Even if it did take half an hour for the security guard to arrive to open the gate and let us leave. There were also too many chocolate chip cookies available.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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