mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Open House Family Lectures and Movies 2014

The schedule and talks are subject to change. Details about each talk are being posted as they become available.


IfA Auditorium (C-214) Adult-oriented talks

11:30 Günther Hasinger: Great Telescopes = Great Astronomy in Hawai‘i
Dr. Hasinger will give an update on the status of the telescopes on both Maunakea and Haleakalā, focusing mainly on developments during recent years. He will also highlight recent groundbreaking scientific results from the Hawai‘i telescopes, many of which have been achieved by University of Hawai‘i scientists.

12:15 Nader Haghighipour: Life on Tatooine! The Worlds with Two Suns
In the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker lived on the planet Tatooine, which had two suns. More recently, scientists have found several exoplanets that actually orbit two stars. And to make things more intriguing, some of these planets are in the habitable zone, where liquid water and, therefore, life, may exist . Science fiction has become science fact!

1:00 Karen Meech: Comets and Asteroids Behaving Badly: When the Unexpected Occurs
In this talk Dr. Meech will highlight some recent comet discoveries that were unexpected, didn't live up to the hype, or were really exciting. In particular, she will talk about comet ISON's not so spectacular perihelion passage, splitting comets, splitting asteroids, why we aren't always able to predict this—and why this is exciting!

1:45 Christoph Baranec: Clearing Our View of the Universe with Adaptive Optics
When we peer out to into the Universe with ground-based optical and infrared telescopes, Earth's atmosphere limits the clarity of our vision. Adaptive optics systems on telescopes can counteract the blurring effects of the atmosphere and greatly increase the acuity of observations. In this talk, Dr. Baranec will review the technology behind adaptive optics and highlight new initiatives at Maunakea.

2:30 Katie Whitman: The AMS Experiment
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer AMS-02 is a state of the art of particle physics detector. It was installed on the International Space Station in May 2011 to study cosmic rays, dark matter, and antimatter for the next ten years. So far it has collected billions of particles from our Universe with unprecedented precision.

3:15 Robert Joseph: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition
In this talk, Dr. Joseph will fill in the historical background about Galileo’s life, his first use of a telescope for astronomy, and its implications. He will show how he became increasingly critical of Aristotelean ideas and why he came before the Inquisition in 1633. Finally, he will put this episode in the larger historical context of the Counter-Reformation and the Thirty Years War, and show that much larger issues than science vs. religion were involved.


Fern Room (C-221) Family-friendly talks

11:15 Gary Greenberg: How Science Has Changed Our Perception of Light, Space, and Time
We human beings perceive the world around us through our senses and our brain. This allows us to create an amazingly accurate model of reality. However, we are limited in our perception of time, space and light. For example, with the naked-eye we cannot see objects smaller than the size of a human hair. In this presentation, we will illuminate some of the hidden secrets of nature, as seen through the eyes of modern science.

12:00 Paul Coleman: Hawaiians and Astronomy
Long before modern astronomy came to Hawai'i, the Kanaka Maoli had a well-developed science here. In fact, it was perhaps the most important science in the lives of the people of old. Most of the details of that science, kilo hōkū, have been lost since European contact, but some of the knowledge has survived and will be presented.

12:45 Jonathan Williams: Fun Facts about the Universe
Join Dr. Williams for a quick tour of the solar system and beyond, and learn some amazing things about planets, stars, galaxies, and even our own Earth.

1:30 Richard Wainscoat: Near-Earth Objects (NEOs)
A family-friendly talk about how dinosaurs, huge explosions, and Kragle relate to astronomy.

2:15 Rolf Kudritzki: Jumbo Stars: Beacons in the Universe
Stars are individuals, and many of them are very different from the Sun. Most of them are much smaller, cooler, and lighter. But a small fraction of stars are much bigger than the Sun. They are very young and shine with an enormous brightness. They are beacons in the Universe, and we use them to investigate the nature of the black hole in the center of our Milky Way and the physics of galaxies very far away.

3:00 Andrew Howard: Earth-like Planets around Other Stars
Dr. Howard will give a firsthand description of the quest for a planet like our Earth orbiting a star other than the Sun. Join him for a tour of the diverse landscape of "extrasolar planets" discovered in the past two decades.


Watch videos of 2009 and 2010 Open House lectures and activities.


Moon Room (B-228) Movies

11AM–Noon Mauna Kea: On the Verge of Other Worlds (1989)
A documentary that takes viewers to the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii's highest mountain, for a look at its astronomical observatory. Produced by KHET (now PBS Hawaii) and narrated by Johnny Carson.

12:10–12:45 The Hawaiian Heavens: On the Summit of Mauna Kea. Videography by IfA Graduate Student Jason Chu

12:45–1:45 Mauna Kea Videos
A Sacred Summit, Visiting Mauna Kea, Mauna Kea Astronomy, Living Mountain (

1:45–2:15 Mauna Kea Heavens: Timelapse Photography by IfA Graduate Student Sean Goebel

2:15–3:15 What's Up in the Universe? produced by IfA astronomer Brent Tully (2007)
This film looks at the human need to explore and ponders whether there is life elsewhere in the universe.