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Dark-Sky Sites:

Hawaii

 

 Sites:
 


Town: Haleakala National Park, Maui

Observing site: Haleakala National Park Summit Visitor Center

Address: PO Box 369, Makawao

Zip Code: 96768

Contact person: Park Ranger

Telephone number: (808) 572-9306 or (808) 572-4400

URL: http://www.nps.gov/hale/

Restrictions: Vehicle access pass (good for 7 days) is available for $10, at the Park entrance booth just after mile marker 10 of Hwy 378. Most roadway and parking areas open 24hrs. Camping sites (except Hosmer Grove) require permits. Note: If you plan to observe only at night, its better to arrive after 5-6PM, when the entrance booth is closed, and no fee is collected.

Directions:  To reach the summit area observing sites from Kahului airport, or the main tourist areas of south and west Maui, just follow the Hana Hwy (Route 37) east from the airport shopping areas (Dairy Road), and after 2 miles, bear to the right and follow Hwy 37 as it splits off toward Pukalani and Makawao (Upcountry Maui). The road starts steadily uphill, and after Pukalani, turn left at Hwy 377 (Upper Kula Road). Follow this road about 6 miles, past the Kula Lodge and Sandalwoods Restaurant. Then turn left onto Hwy 378, which is marked with signs to Halaeakala National Park. From there, it is 22 miles of scenic, winding road up through the clouds to the summit. Allow at least 75 minutes from the airport area.    Click here to create a map using Mapquest.

Current weather:   Click for Maui, Hawaii Forecast
 
How are the sky conditions?  Outstanding. The summit area is well above the inversion level, which isolates you from the normal cloudy, showery, humid weather below. The air is extremely dry and the skies are perfectly clear most of the time. The rare exception is when frontal bands or tropical low pressure systems pass by and bring high level clouds. But the likelihood of transparent skies is one of the highest in the world.

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6.5+
     East: 6.5+
     West: 5.5
     North: 6.5+
     South: 6.5+

Best horizon: Most any direction. Most horizons are sea-surface limited at a distance of ~120 miles, or the cloud tops at 6000 ft or below. (It is possible to glimpse objects at -69 declination due south!)

Worst horizon: From the Visitor center parking lot, parts of the southern, all of the eastern, and parts of the northern horizons are cut off to variable degrees by the surrounding crater rim. However, the summit area is large, and you can easily drive to a spot which has a perfect horizon in any direction you want to observe. Unfortunately, the proximity and growth of the central Maui area creates a light dome to the west. But, serious degradation of limiting magnitude mainly occurs at altitudes below 20 in that direction only.
 
Comments from contributor: This is one of the best observing sites on Earth! Nearby Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii is better, but of course, that is generally considered THE top site in the world. Note: Come prepared for harsh summit conditions. You won't "survive" more than a few minutes at night with your beach shorts and T-shirt. Temperatures drop fast after sundown, usually into the low 40's, and the winds can blow mercilessly, easily up to 40+ mph, creating serious wind-chills. Locating a "wind shadow" behind any structure, ridge or tall vehicle, is HIGHLY recommended. WARNING: Persons with heart or respiratory problems and pregnant women should check with their doctor before coming to the Park, given the reduced oxygen at high elevation. The summit is at 10,023 feet above sea level.

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Town: Mokuleia, Oahu

Observing site: Dillingham
 
Address: Dillingham Airfield
 
URL: http://www.hawastsoc.org
 
Any restrictions: No fee or permit required for astronomical use, open to the public for scheduled star parties sponsored by Hawaiian Astronomical Society (HAS). Site is located within Dillingham Airfield (skydiving/sightseeing facility on Oahu's North shore), a secured area with access provided by HAS. You will need to reach the site by 6:30 p.m. in winter, 7:00 p.m. in summer to find the gate open. Unless it is a scheduled star party night, the gate will be locked after dusk and you wont be able to leave until the morning. The dates of monthly star parties are published in the HAS website. On those nights, late arrivals can still get in if they know the combination for that day. Contact the Hawaiian Astronomical Society for further information.
 
Directions:  To reach the Dillingham observing site from Honolulu, take the H1 freeway west to the H2 (North shore) freeway to its end near Wahiawa/Schofield Barracks. Keep left, don't exit. The freeway becomes a 4 lane highway passing Schofield. Just stay on the main road, and it soon narrows from 4 to 2 lanes and takes a big dip. There is a split to go either the "tourist" North shore or Waialua. Bear left and follow the sign to Waialua. The road winds through several miles of pineapple fields, then descends. Continue on the main road until you reach a strange traffic circle, bear left and pass under the bridge. If you are in the right place you will pass Waialua High School on the left. Continue on this long, straight road, a few miles until you reach Dillingham Airfield on the left. Dillingham is several miles long. It has several gates. You need to drive to the far end to the third gate. When you enter the gate, the road will curve around some hangars and buildings. It will then take you through a very sharp S curve at the last hangars. 1/4 mile beyond is a low stop sign in the middle of nowhere. Turn right at the stop sign, and you will be there.   Click here to create a map using Mapquest.

Current weather:   Click for Dillingham, Hawaii Forecast
 
How are the sky conditions?  The population centers of Honolulu are close enough (25 miles) to create moderate light domes to the South/SE. Also, the site is at sea level, so there is a lot of atmosphere above. Seeing is variable. It is not a particularly good planetary site, with only rare nights steady enough for detailed observation. But deep sky is good in most directions. Also, it tends to get humid as the night progresses and trade wind clouds come and go, but this is one of the least cloudy parts of the island.

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6.3
     East: 5.5
     West: 5 (due to bright local lights at the airfield)
     North: 6.3
     South: 5.5


Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): North, just distant line of trees between you and the ocean. Can see down to a few degrees altitude.
 
Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): South, 20 degrees due to mountains and also worst for light pollution (SE). But, trees to the West and East can block up to 30 degrees, depending on what spot you choose.
 
Comments from contributor: This is probably the best site you will find on Oahu. The site is about as far from town as you can get and is one of the main observing sites of the HAS. The club holds monthly star parties on the Saturday night nearest New Moon, "Last Quarter Moon" star parties on the preceding Saturdays, and special events.

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