President Obama on Monday hosted the second-ever White House Astronomy Night to help inspire kids to fall in love with science and space.

The White House also announced new private-sector commitments to help inspire students from groups “historically underrepresented” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As part of that, eight of the world’s leading observatories are partnering to offer Hawaii residents over the age of 16 free guided tours of their facilities.

The observatories, according to a White House press release, are the W.M. Keck Observatory, Gemini Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Subaru Telescope, NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, Harvard-Smithsonian Center Submillimeter Array and — wait for it — “in the future, the Thirty Meter Telescope.”

President Obama hosted the second-ever White House Astronomy Night Monday to highlight the importance of inspiring more girls and boys with the wonder of science and space.

President Obama hosted the second-ever White House Astronomy Night Monday to highlight the importance of inspiring more girls and boys with the wonder of science and space.

Imiloa Astronomy Center

That’s right — the controversial TMT, construction of which has been in limbo for half the year due to protests from some groups who argue Mauna Kea is a sacred place that should not be desecrated by science.

Not long after the White House Astronomy Night was concluded, the “Maunakea Observatories” and Imiloa Astronomy Center announced the Kamaaina Observatory Experience, “a monthly community event that welcomes Hawaii residents to the science reserve atop Maunakea to see world-class telescopes and learn about the cultural and environmental importance of the mountain.”

That’s right — “Maunakea” is one word instead of two in the press release from Honolulu’s Bennet Group Strategic Communications. Here’s why, according to UH’s Institute for Astronomy:

While the name Mauna Kea (white mountain) is simply descriptive, “Maunakea” is a name that in Native Hawaiian tradition is short for “Mauna a Wākea,” the mountain of Wākea, one of the progenitors of the Hawaiian people. Maunakea is believed to connect the land to the heavens.

The UH Hilo School of Hawaiian Language recommends the one-word spelling, and recently the Office of Maunakea Management started using the one-word spelling (but their abbreviation remains OMKM). According to Stephanie Nagata, director of OMKM, the name Maunakea has been accepted by the official Hawai‘i Board on Geographic Names, and the federal government has also accepted the name change, so new maps will now use the one-word name.

The astronomy event, by the way, was held on the South Lawn of the White House. Guests from Hawaii included folks from the Imiloa Astronomy Center, Gemini Observatory and the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

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