Mauna Kea

From where I am staying at Waikaloa Beach on the Big Island of Hawai’i, you look across 30 miles of desolate volcanic terrain to Mauna Kea.
At sunset from here on the coast … above the perpetual cloud layer that wreathes the summit, the domes of the Subaru and Keck 1&2 Telescopes can be seen shining like gold in the dying rays of the sun. The view is inspiring from sea level, but for many years I’ve looked at other photographers images taken from that summit – where the observatories are, and dreamed of being there looking back down across the landscape towards the sea …. And at last, a few days ago that wish was fulfilled.
The altitude and isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes Mauna Kea one of the best locations on earth for ground-based astronomy. It is an ideal location for submillimeter, infrared and optical observations. The seeing conditions are arguably the best in the world.
The journey to the summit of Mauna Kea is in itself an adventure. An initial stop is made at the visitor information station located at 9200 feet (2775 m) in order to acclimatise …. the summit of Mauna Kea being so high at 13,800 ft (4,205m) that you are advised to stop for at least 30 minutes before continuing to the summit, and scientists often stay at Hale Pōhaku for 8 hours or more before spending a full night at observatories on the summit, with some telescopes requiring observers to spend one full night at Hale Pōhaku before working at the summit.
The images from the summit hopefully convey some of the grandeur of this mountain, and the views at sunrise from the coast – for me, anchor my thoughts and provide a sense of place in a crazy and ever changing world.
The Milky Way images were taken during an hour or so below the summit … The night sky here was the darkest I have ever experienced, and the Sagittarius Arm fell like diamonds and stardust across the landscape.


15 thoughts on “Mauna Kea

  1. These are really outstanding images, Wes. I am intensely envious, and jealous. Been to Hawaii 2 times, never the Big Island. Would really like to go more so now. Really, REALLY nice!


    1. Thank you Marty, appreciate your comment … You have to do Big Island next time. Sitting here right now in Waikiki with the noise and crowded streets I miss those quiet grassy lava fields very much. We will be cruising back to Australia through the South Pacific in a few days – time then to relax and reflect


  2. Enjoy! We went last year and I thought that the Big Island was one of the most stunning places I have ever been too. The night sky from the heights of Mauna Kea was stunning!


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