By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
This moment in time, right now as you read this sentence, is an incredibly important one.
Why you ask?
Because this place in time is where all the accomplishments of the people who came before us intersect with and inspire the future generations and all the wondrous discoveries that they will one day make.
And that’s a pretty good place to be, argued Jeff Goldstein, astrophysicist and director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.
Right now is our opportunity to take the ball and run with it when it comes to scientific discovery, or any other pursuit for that matter. We have to “push the envelope as far as we can,” he said Sunday afternoon as he spoke at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii as part of Journey through the Universe’s Journey Week, which brings world-renowned scientists and educators to area schools to share with Hawaii Island’s keiki their love for the pursuit of knowledge.
Such an effort is important, he said, because “eventually, we’ll reach the point where we’ll say to our kids ‘I’ve gone as far as I can, and now it’s your turn to keep this dream alive … so you can take the human race to somewhere we’ve never been before, to inspire the future,” he said.
Sunday marked the seventh birthday for ‘Imiloa, a place that largely embodies the themes of which Goldstein spoke — a place where the study of Hawaii’s ancestors and their tradition of voyaging using the stars as guides goes hand in hand with the modern science of astronomy utilizing the worldclass telescopes atop Mauna Kea.
Sponsored by KTA, the day offered free admission to families, with nearly 2,000 people coming through the doors, said Margaret Shiba, director of institutional advancement. There was a cookout with birthday cake, and plenty of exhibits and presentations to entertain and inform all ages.
“It’s an opportunity for us to enjoy a real family day here,” said ‘Imiloa Director Ka‘iu Kimura. “We can open our doors and say ‘Thank you for your support over the years.’”
Matt Benjamin, an astrophysicist with the NASA Lunar Science Institute, sat with a colleague at a table in ‘Imiloa’s exhibit hall as kids raced back and forth taking in all the sights and sounds. On the table in front of him were two meteorites, each a bit smaller than a baseball, and two large glass discs with rocks and dust incased inside them.
“This is my favorite,” he said, spinning one of the discs in his hand and pointing to one of the rocks inside. “This was brought back by the Apollo astronauts from the moon. … That right there is 4.5 billion years old. It’s older than the Earth.”
Six-year-old Arjuna Lake was so impressed by that statement, he declined to pick up the disc when it was offered.
“No way, what if I drop it?” Arjuna said.
The boy did, however, take a shine to one of the meteorites, which he said looked just like a large hunk of chocolate with a bite taken out of it.
“This is such a great opportunity,” Benjamin said of coming to Hilo for the second year in a row. “We come out here, and in a week we get to impact up to 7,500 kids. They all have such different perceptions, and different questions. They’re so pristine. They haven’t been tainted yet by all the bad information out there.”
University of Hawaii at Hilo astronomy students Nick Ackerman and Krystal Schlechter operated a telescope out in front of the building, allowing attendees to get a filtered, up-close-and-personal look at the sun during the brief interludes when Hilo’s rain clouds opted to play along.
“It’s white through the filter, so some kids have told us it looks like the moon,” Schlechter said. “And it does. There haven’t been a lot of sunspots lately, so there’s not as much exciting going on, but they still like to look at it.”
About 70 astronomers and educators will be visiting classrooms throughout the Hilo-Waiakea school complex, today through Friday. The complex is one of 10 communities across the country that participate in Journey through the Universe, a national science education initiative developed by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.
For more information on the program, visit http://www.gemini.edu/journey.
Colin M. Stewart can be reached at email@example.com.