Stargazing Spotlight: Mauna Kea

Recently, we explored the 10 highest summits in the world. Mount Everest took the lead with a height of 29,035 ft. But, interestingly enough, Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world. Altitude is measured from sea level to the top. And Mount Everest has the highest altitude and highest summit, but measuring height, from the base of a mountain to the top can be entirely different when the base of a mountain sits at the bottom of the ocean.

Related: Stargazing Spotlight: Cherry Springs State Park

Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano located in Hawaii, when measured from bottom to top (from the ocean floor) reaches over 33,000 feet. This peak, famous for it's height, is also a famous landmark for it's incredible views of the night sky. The summit of Mauna Kea is known as one of the best sites for astronomical observation in the world. There are a number of factors that make this site such an incredible observation point. Because atmospheres above a volcano are very dry, submillimeter and infrared astronomy can be used properly. The summit is also above the inversion layer which keeps cloud cover below, and a clear sky above.

[Flickr/Bill Shupp]

According to the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, there are currently 13 working telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea. And the stargazing is an absolutely extraordinary experience. Because of the cloudless skies, and the height of the summit, a grand and clear view of the stars is one of the best you'll ever see.

Visiting Mauna Kea is an exciting adventure. Every night a free stargazing and star tour is held from 6-10pm which provides several telescopes for public viewing and knowledgeable guides to inform you of the stars you are seeing. Bring a four wheel drive vehicle and join the free summit tour caravan every Saturday and Sunday. 

Take a hike towards the stars, click here for the 10 best trails for stargazing.