Star Studies

Mauna Kea shadows

Mauna Kea shadows

Class Six recently completed studies in Astronomy. The constellations overhead were becoming familiar to us as gods and heroes of Greek Mythology and guest astronomer Graham Knopp shared his knowledge of the stars with us. He even set up a telescope so that an image of the sun was cast onto card stock. We could clearly see sunspots on its surface and clouds moving past like gray veils.

Our recent field trip to the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center was the crowning adventure! We escaped the driving rain in Honoka’a, climbed Saddle Road, and soon found ourselves above most of the clouds at 9,200 feet. Though it was a chilly 40 degrees and the wind nearly pushed us off the path, we went hiking up an orange-hued pu’u and found large lava spheres we named “Pele’s cannonballs”. Apparently, a piece of solidified lava can roll along the surface of an active `a`a flow, growing as molten lava sticks to its surface. The children likened this process to how a snowball grows when rolled down a hill. Some of the spheres had cracked open and we could see the built-up layers of lava. At magic hour, the world turned golden and the sun set behind translucent clouds.

Grade Six!

Grade Six!

Meanwhile, the rangers at the Center had set up telescopes. We saw Jupiter with its four moons and our own moon’s craters with exceptional clarity and detail. A guided star tour brought to life stars and constellations we had drawn in our mainlesson books: Hokupa’a, the fixed North Star, Orion, Cassiopeia in her chair beside her husband Cepheus, Perseus holding Medusa’s head, the hunting dogs Canis Major and Canis Minor, Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini, and the horns of Taurus. We gazed upwards in fascination until the cold drove us indoors to a waiting cup of hot chocolate!
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