A glimpse into life on Mauna Kea
"A GENTLE RAIN OF STARLIGHT: THE STORY OF ASTRONOMY ON MAUNA KEA" BY MICHAEL WEST; ISLAND HERITAGE PRESS, $13.99
What goes on up there in the observatories atop Mauna Kea? University of Hawai'i professor Michael West gives readers an insider's perspective.
Looking for the perfect place from which to observe the heavens, Dutch-born astronomer Gerard Kuiper settled on 13,796-foot Mauna Kea. West takes the story from there, describing the building of the road to the extinct volcano's summit, the $1 billion global village of 13 major telescopes built by Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Britain and the United States.
The best parts are when he describes what it's actually like to be up there: "On a moonless night, the skies over Mauna Kea are so dark that the glow of the Milky Way casts shadows across the landscape."
While West doesn't address the contention between the astronomy complex and Native Hawaiian groups who protest the construction of future observatories, he respectfully writes about Mauna Kea's important place in Hawaiian culture.
As he writes, "there is growing awareness of the need to protect the mountain's fragile ecosystem, and for increased sensitivity to native Hawaiian cultural concerns over the continued development of Mauna Kea's sacred summit."