World Class Astronomy in Hawaii

Hawaii Island is where Astronomy is Happening

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The Island of Hawaii is an international astronomy and scientific center. Mauna Kea's summit provides the clearest view of the skies of any location on earth for optical telescopes. The reasons are the dry, stable, pollution-free air, the lack of light pollution, and the volcano's altitude of 4,200 meters (almost 14,000 feet) above the Pacific Ocean. Nearby Mauna Loa provides access to the upper regions of the atmosphere for monitoring far from polluted regions of the earth.

Hilo and Waimea have easy physical access to the Telescopes on Mauna Kea's summit via the newly paved Saddle Road. Many of the astronomers, engineers and others maintaining the telescopes work in a row of buildings situated above the University of Hawaii Hilo campus. Waimea (also called Kamuela) has several observatory headquarters as well including the Keck and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes. A historical timeline of Astronomy in Hawaii is here.

The observatories, offices and organizations with facilities and telescopes on the Big Island are:

The next generation telescope planned for the summit of Mauna Kea, currently in the planning stage, is the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). It will be the largest telescope in the world and offer employment opportunities for a new generation of scientists, engineers, software programmers, technicians, and workers.


The Gemini Observatory has two optical telescopes, one on a summit in the Andes mountains in Chile and one on the summit of Mauna Kea. The 8 meter optical telescope on Mauna Kea is called the Frederick C. Gillett Gemini North Telescope. It was built and is funded by an international community comprised of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONiCYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Secretaria de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación productiva (SECYT) and the Brazilian Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). The Observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership. Below is a picture of the Gemini Observatory international headquarters in Hilo.

Gemini Observatory Headquarters in Hilo

The Gemini building's entrance in Hilo has flags from every country funding their telescopes.

Front of Gemini Observatory Hilo

Jobs at the Gemini Observatory
Live view of the Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea

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The East Asian Observatory took over the Joint Astronomy Center in March 2015. It provides services and support to enable astronomers to undertake international-class research using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT). The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT), previously managed by JAC is now operated for the University of Hawaii by the University of Arizona. Below is a picture of the facility in Hilo.

JAC headquarters Hilo

Jobs at the EAO
Live views of the Telescopes on Mauna Kea


The Smithsonian Observatory manages a Submillimeter Array (SMA), an 8 element radio interferometer, located on Mauna Kea Volcano with dishes that can be arranged into different configurations. The Submillimeter Array (SMA) is a joint venture of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Below is a picture of the Smithsonian Observatory in Hilo.

Smithsonian observatory Hilo
View of SMA


The Subaru Telescope is a 8.2 meter optical/infrared telescope operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), National Institutes of Natural Science. NAOJ is an inter-university research facility for carrying out astronomy research at the national level. It builds and operates first class research facilities for researchers throughout Japan and facilitates international collaboration. Subaru is one of the ten NAOJ facilities and has close ties with the NAOJ Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division, the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory (also operating in the optical/near-infrared), and three other facilities at the NAOJ Mitaka headquarters (the Astronomical Data Analysis Center, the Advanced Technology Center, and the Public Relations Center). Below is a picture of the Subaru headquarters in Hilo.

Subaru Telescope Hilo

NAOJ job opportunities


The University of Hawaii Mauna Kea Observatories coordinates and organizes collective efforts of the Mauna Kea Observatories. This is a building near Hwy11 used by the Mauna Kea Observatory.

Maun Kea Observatory Office in Hilo


The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the Sun. The faculty and staff manage the University of Hawaii 2.2 meter optical telescope on Mauna Kea and a telescope on top of Haleakala on Maui. Below is a picture of the IfA facility at the end of astronomy row in Hilo.

UH IfA Hilo


The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) is a facility for astronomical research and instrumentation development. It consists of a 10.4-meter diameter dish situated in a dome near the summit of Mauna Kea. The telescope is operated by Caltech under a contract from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Below is a picture of the Caltech Observatory facility in Hilo.

Caltech telescope Hilo

CSO related jobs

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The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) is a non-profit organization that operates a 3.6 meter optical/infrared telescope atop Mauna Kea. The Observatory headquarters are located in Waimea (Kamuela), where CFHT has been located since 1977. The CFHT team of some 50 people includes engineers, technicians, astronomers, and administrators.

CFH Telescope

CFH Courtyard

Jobs at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
Live view of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea

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The Keck Observatory operates twin optical/infrared telescope atop Mauna Kea. The Observatory headquarters are located in Waimea (Kamuela). Keck operates with grants from the W. M. Keck Foundation operated by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California and NASA.

Keck Observatory

Keck Observatory

Jobs at Keck

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Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Global Monitoring Division of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL). MLO is located on Mauna Loa, a volcano next to Mauna Kea, a great distance from major pollution sources and is therefore is a prime spot for sampling the Earth's background air in the well mixed free troposphere. MLO has been began monitoring climate change, atmospheric composition, and air quality since the 1950's. The observatory is best known for its measurements of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as well as its measurements of ozone, solar radiation, and trospheric and stratospheric aerosols. Data from MLO is also used to calibrate and verify data from satellites and stations around the world

The MLO has offices in Hilo at 1437 Kilauea Ave as well as the MLO site on Mauna Loa.

Jobs at MLO must be checked at individual supporting organizations: NOAA Research opportunities and jobs, JIMAR and ESRL jobs as well as USAJobs.
Live Data Links from MLO
Live views from MLO

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The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information center (also known as Hale Pohaku - Hawaiian for "Stone House") has living facilities for scientists and staff working at the summit, as well as a visitor center and other support buildings. The visitors center and Hale Pohaku is 6 miles up a relatively steep road from Saddle Road (Hwy 200) at 9000 feet. Here is an aerial photograph taken in 1998. Below is a picture of the Visitor's center entryway.

Onizuka Center Mauna Kea

This is a picture of the visitor's center from further away.

Onizuka Center Mauna Kea

This is a picture of Hale Pohaku, a place for astronomers and engineers working on the summit to stay to allow them to acclimate to the high altitude above on the summit of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea astronomer residences

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The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii is located below the row of Observatories and above the campus of UH Hilo. The center is funded by NASA and other donations and programs. The center features a large number of interactive exhibits, 3D planetarium shows, a museum store,and a cafe. They sponsor many evening scientific and cultural events throughout the year. There is an entrance charge to see the exhibits and planetarium shows. If you are interested in Astronomy, and live nearby, it makes sense to become a member and get year-round entry. A morning at 'Imiloa is a photo tour of the center.

Astronomy Center Hilo Hawaii

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The Office of the Mauna Kea Management is an organization working to achieve sustainable management and stewardship of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

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