Mauna Kea VIS
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Map and directions for the Mauna Kea VIS Site
Mauna Kea is simply one of the best places in the world to view the stars. Home to over a dozen of the world's largest telescopes the mountain is also open to amateur observers who wish to enjoy the skies at this astronomical paradise. What must be considered is that conditions at the summit may prohibit use by the amateur observer, the low oxygen conditions of the 14,000ft altitude seriously degrades visual acuity, the usual high winds and biting cold are also major issues. It is likely that a location below the summit may be a better choice for setting up a portable telescope.
The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station is open to amateur observers who wish to setup at a far more comfortable location at a less demanding 9,200ft (2800m) elevation. The site offers a paved parking lot, bathrooms and easy access by a paved road.
The VIS is open every evening until 10pm offering visitors to the mountain an information station as well as evening stargazing through the several telescopes in the small courtyard in front of the building. The scopes include an assortment of 14" and 16" scopes as well as several small dobsonians available for visitor use. This can get quite crowded during the early hours of the evening as many come up for the evening stargazing and the commercial tours come down after sunset viewing on the summit.
The VIS has some advantages and some disadvantages...
If a more private location away from the crowds and light of the VIS is desired you may want to consider the nearby Substation, or R-1 sites instead