Looking Forward To: The Night Sky

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Looking Forward

Continuing from yesterday, another thing I’m really looking forward to when returning to Maui is the night sky. While we weren’t able to fit in the Star Gazers Maui tour this trip like we had hoped, we still have one trip up to Haleakala that might be full of stars prior to sunrise (weather permitting).  But besides viewing from Haleakala, any stretch of sand along the shore is good enough for me.

Drawn to the Stars over Maui
Galaxies and Stars above Ka'anapali BeachMore than likely, a major part of my attraction to the stars above Maui at night has to do with growing up in the suburbs of a large metropolitan city. One could also argue that by heading further out into the unpopulated areas here in the Midwest that you could see just as many stars as you could from Hawaii, albeit not the same exact stars given the difference in latitude.

Regardless, Maui has a way of magnifying all the wonderful things I enjoy, and just making them that much more special to me. And while gazing up at the stars from Maui is one of the few wonders the islands of Hawaii offer that may be readily available throughout the mainland, I can’t think of a better place to participate in the hobby.

Mixed Luck Lately
Perhaps I’ve been thinking about stargazing again on Maui more this weekend because of the fact we had to scrap the Star Gazers tour. Come to think about it, our star gazing efforts have been somewhat of a mixed bag as of late.  The first experiences (’06 and ’07) were absolutely amazing.  Call it beginners luck, call it happenstance, call it “the first one’s always free.”  Call it whatever you want, it hooked me in.

Last year, though, we had some challanges.  First, we were fighting a full moon, which in itself can also be beautiful. The drowning glow of the lunar sphere was scaring away stars like sharks chasing tourists (at least in the movies). If that weren’t enough, we had another foe we hadn’t even heard of …Vog.

Vog, as it turns out, is a term for Volcanic Smog caused by the erupting Kilauea on the Big Island. Given the right conditions, Kona Winds (the opposite of Hawaii’s Trade Winds) will carry this vog northwest throughout the entire island chain, starting with it’s closest neighbor, Maui. This not only increased some of the cloud cover during the day while we were there last April, it also had a hand in drowning out the stars for us at night. We had hopes of doing the Tours of the Stars activity at the Hyatt Maui Regency, but after rescheduling twice, it was a bust.

I’m a little more hopeful this time, however. As crazy as it seems, we actually consulted the lunar calendar when scheduling our trip this year, and planned it around a new moon (Feb. 24th). Hopefully it will pay off.

Our Stargazing
We like to do our stargazing (and on occasion, photography) right there on Ka’anapali Beach. On some occasions, we’ll be out for an after dinner/dessert stroll back from Whalers Village, and not help but stare at the sky while walking. Every once and a while, we’ll even be caught off guard by a wave splashing our bare feet when we’re not expecting it, and that water is cold at night!!

Other times, we’ll just be relaxing on our lanai overlooking the ocean, and just watch them from there. It’s usually later in the evening at that point (after 10pm or so) and we sometimes just decide to head down on the beach on a whim. By that time, the torches on Black Rock have already gone dark and we have even less light interfering with our view.  Sometimes I’ll bring my smartphone with me, and the Pocket Stars software I have on it to tell us what we’re looking at. We’ve only recently started with naming things in the sky, and usually we just enjoy the view itself.

Photographing the Stars
Early on, after the initial numbing fascination with the entire sky sprinkled with stars, I decided I wanted to bring all of them home with me. It took a little practice and research at first, but I managed to get the hang of it after awhile. What I took away was a handful of photographs that only pretend to match the brilliance of seeing the stars in person, but are good enough to be hanging on the wall in my office at home. Like other aspects of my photography, though, I still have a lot to learn.

I wanted to share a few of those photographs to help further illustrate, for those you haven’t witnessed it, just how magical the night skies look over Maui. It is certainly something I’m looking forward to seeing next month, especially from Haleakala (if possible) as well as from Hana during our overnight trip. When I think further down the road, past this upcoming trip, I can only imagine how wonderful it will be to have these stars overhead all year round should we make Maui our home someday.  Now THAT is something to look forward to.

Mahalo and Enjoy.

Maui Stars and Galaxies

More Night Sky Glitter

Stars above the Sheraton

Black Rock at Night

More Stars

Ka'anapali at Night

Related Links

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About Kris

Kris and his wife Cindy are avid Maui fans, and have visited the island half a dozen times since '06. Over the years, they have made many friends living on Maui or through social media, which keeps them in touch with the island until they can return again.

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2 Responses to “Looking Forward To: The Night Sky”

  1. robertkudla Says:

    Kris, you are in for an even bigger treat this year. There is a comet (comet Lulin) coming around the sun and its closest approach to earth is on the 24th of February. It will be in the morning sky in the East South East quadrant, you will need binoculars to see it well, but it is already generating some buzz. It is a two tailed, green comet.

  2. Kris Nelson Says:

    Many mahalos for the tip. I have a pair of Celestron binoculars that serve double duty on our Maui trips (stars at night, whales during the day). I found this article online at Sky and Telescope with more details and it lists that the comet will be right near Saturn in the sky on the 23rd/24th. That should make it fairly easy to find I assume.

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