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Observing on Kauai

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#1 chaoscosmos

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 08:55 PM

Hey all...

I've been invited to Kauai for the first week of June. As travel to Hawaii is actually not at the top of my list of priorities, I started wondering if the night sky there might provide good or great viewing to make the trip more worthwhile. I don't know the exact location of the condo I'd be staying at, so if anyone knows where a nice observing site would be on Kauai, I'd appreciate hearing about it.

Also wondering if I could carry my scope onboard in the overhead on the plane. Dimensions of the case are 38 x 9 x 10 inches. Mount and tripod of course would be another issue.

Thanks...

#2 SkipW

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 10:45 PM

Oh. My. God! Take it! Kauai is a fabulous place. Even if you don't like beaches.

You'll visit Waimea Canyon (in the southwestern quadrant of the island) while you're there, so check out the Waimea Canyon Overlook off Highway 550 during the day. Go on to Kokee and the Kalalau Valley overlook, but return to the Waimea Canyon Overlook at night. It's very dark if it's moonless, and open if you walk the couple hundred feet up to the overlook from the parking lot (bring a light; it gets really dark, and bring a light coat - it's high enough that it gets cool at night). Take 550 from Waimea Town regardless of signs directing you to 552 for Waimea Canyon.

Kauai is very rural, so it tends to be dark away from the immediate population centers; most of the roads hug the coast, but the Waimea Canyon Road (550) takes you to some pretty good elevation in a hurry; it does rain a lot on Kauai - it has the wettest spot in the world - but clear skies aren't rare; the really rainy season is early in the calendar year, I think.

Do you know where you're staying? Waimea is a long way (by road) from Princeville/Hanalei, not as bad from Kapaa/Lihue, better from Poipu and as good as you can hope from Waimea Town. Do you know where your condo will be?

38" is probably too much for a carry-on, but ask your airline.

#3 chaoscosmos

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 11:52 PM

Ah, didn't even think about the moon, but full moon is the 24th so by the week of the 1st I should be good I think?

Condo is at or near Lydgate State Park north of Wailua Golf course, at the Kaha Lani Resort.

#4 chaoscosmos

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 01:09 AM

Hmm, maybe I could get an Orion ST 80, bring my Tiltall tripod to mount it on, a few eyepieces and I'd be good to go in a compact way.

#5 SkipW

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 10:29 AM

Even without a telescope there are some sights that are too far south to see from the mainland. Crux will be well placed low in the south in the evening, and Rigel Kent (Alpha Centauri) rises soon after sunset nearly due south. Unfortunately, you're still too far north to see the Magellanic Clouds, and it's the wrong time of year for them, anyway.

Scorpius should be rising about sunset, and Sagittarius and the region around the galactic center should be well up before midnight. The southern Milky Way is awesome from that overlook on a moonless night.

It'll probably take the better part of an hour to get to Waimea Town from Wailua, which is north of Lihue on the east side of the island, and another 10-15 minutes to the overlook from there. It seems like there are only about 5 miles of 4-lane road on the entire island, mostly in and around Lihue, so take your time and enjoy it; you're on "island time". Avoid Lihue in the morning and evening rush hours - traffic backs up (in fact, all along Highway 50 in the southeast at those times), but other times traffic isn't too bad, just slow.

Enjoy your trip!

#6 csrlice12

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 02:30 PM

I'd contact the local Astronomy Society on Kauai (They've gotta have one) and see if they have any loner scopes. If you're a member of another astronomy society I imagine they'd be ok with it. May want to try to make those arrangements beforehand though.....just a thought.....

#7 David Castillo

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 02:58 PM

The ST 80 on a tripod sounds good because the resort itself has lots of path lights, street lights out on the highway side, and plenty of lights on the hotel lanais. You will need to get over to the east(beach) side of the property which will give you a pretty good views East and South. Just south of the property on Nehe Rd. you may be able to find a better light sheltered site- it's real close. It can get a little breezy on that side of the island and it can cloud up quickly, so be prepared. I took a tripod and a pair of 15X80 binocs when I visited, but I really could have used a closer look at the night sky, but I'd have to buy a seat for my Dob if I really wanted get some serious observing done.
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#8 csrlice12

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 04:35 PM

Well, there's always the Island Ferry over to Maui and the Observatory. There's usually others up there observing, and the ST80 would do. I have my ST80 on the EQ-1 Minimount. Its a regular EQ-1 Mount but on a tabletop tripod. Handles the ST80A (mine now has a 2" focuser as of today, yea!) with Pentax XWs, so I think it'll handle most anything you want to put on it. If you do Go to Maui Observatory, that would come in handy at either Island and Is portable. Other's there would probably let you look thru their scopes too if you find something interesting...That's one thing I also like about this hobby, I don't think I've ever met a person who refused someone else a peek. Kauai is a beautiful Island. If you get the chance, take that Jupiter Boat Tour to the Napali Coast....You'll definitley want to spend some dark time there...that's where you might want to see if there is a local astro club and get a loaner scope. And, just some tourist info, Kauai is where they filmed Jurrassic Park......Oh, and Kauai has a REALLY great zip line adventure there......just DO look down!!!

#9 rookie

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 09:19 PM

I just took my 10x42 Regal XL's because they are so light weight and were good for daytime and nighttime. Larger bino's would require a tripod for steady use. Scopes much more but that's really individual preference according to how much you are willing to carry.

Kauai has some central mountains from ancient volcanoes. So for nighttime viewing it would be best not to be in the northwest of the island because the mountains will limit your views of the southern skies.

Do take the helicopter tour around the island. It was the favorite part of my stay. It's also tradition to visit Hilo Hatti's in Lihue.

#10 SkipW

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 10:51 PM

(!) on the helicopter tour. It's worth it if you have the $ to spare; it is expensive, but you can live without it, and it gives something to look forward to next time. Hattie's if you want to; it is a tradition, but don't give up something else to go there.

#11 hm insulators

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 02:03 PM

Chaoscosmos, I lived on Kauai back in the first half of the 1980s, and wanted to give you a few pointers: First of all, definitely go, especially if it's partially or wholly on somebody else's ticket; don't pass up the opportunity!

SkipW said that it rains a lot on Kauai, and that's very true for the north and east shores of the island and especially up in the mountains (a peak called Waialeale is one of the wettest places in the world with over 400 inches of rain annually), but the south and west shores of the island are much drier (the towns of Waimea and Kekaha probably get less rain than Mission Viejo!), so if you want to check out the astronomical sights, go toward the west (leeward, away from the prevailing trade winds) side of the island!

You definitely must see Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau lookout, but the road (same one to both spots) is very steep and winding; it climbs to an altitude of 4000 feet in less than 20 miles! I would not try to drive it at night! Instead, see if a spot called Polihale State Park or somewhere closeby (that's away from the military base in the area) there might be a good spot to set up your telescope (if you insist on bringing it--more in a minute). You go way to the end of Highway 50, then turn left on a dirt road for another five miles or so to the state park. The view of the eastern sky will be blocked by the island's mountains, but to the south and west should be fantastic views.

Before you pack your telescope, see if there is an astronomy club on Kauai that might be able to loan or rent you a scope. (At the time I lived there, my interest in astronomy was less than it is today, so I couldn't tell you one way or the other as to whether or not there is an astronomy club on the island, and of course things change in 30 years!) But I would hesitate to bring your own telescope--the soil on Kauai is red, very fine volcanic clay that just gets into EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, and it's just about impossible to get rid of! Not exactly the best stuff for telescope optics! Bring binoculars instead if you have them; you can use them during the daytime, too, of course.

A few places to see on Kauai other than the night sky: Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Lookout, as mentioned above. On the way to Waimea Canyon, detour through a little town called Koloa (where I used to live). Not far from Koloa are the resort hotels in Poipu, and an interesting feature called Spouting Horn. Also near Koloa is National Tropical Botanical Gardens; if you like botanical gardens, you should see them. (If you go to NTBG, watch out for dinosaurs! Much of Jurassic Park was filmed on Kauai, including the scene where they found the dinosaur eggs around the roots of a giant tree right in the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.)

Another day, drive to Hanalei on the north shore. Don't try to see both sides of the island in one day! Near the town of Kilauea (not to be confused with Kilauea Volcano--that's on another island) is an old lighthouse which is now a bird sanctuary. Did you see the film The Descendents when it came out a couple of years ago? If you did, then Hanalei will look familiar to you--part of that film was shot there. As you continue past Hanalei, the north shore gets more rugged until finally the road dead-ends. Beyond the end of the road is the very rugged Napali Coast, accessible only by a narrow, cliff-hanging hiking trail called the Kalalau Trail--only for very experienced hikers!

For that matter, if you're a movie buff, I think there are guided tours where they show you where scenes from famous movies and TV shows were shot. Lots of movies were filmed on Kauai.

If you play golf, there's lots of golf courses on the island.

Bring lots of money; shopping on Kauai can get expensive ("THEY WANT HOW MUCH FOR A GALLON OF MILK?!!! :scared:").

The first chance you get, get to a bookstore and buy The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (Kauai Revealed) by Andrew Doughty. In a sea of guidebooks, this is the best one to get by an author who lives on the island full time and not only gives recommendations on hotels, restaurants, tourist sites and the like, but also even what places to avoid, such as restaurants with bad food. The book is updated every couple of years and again is the best one to buy.

#12 SkipW

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 07:10 PM

Great advice, and I second all the above except two things.

One, driving up the Waimea Canyon road to the overlook at night isn't a huge problem. I've done it a bunch of times with no problems at all. It's a two-lane paved but winding road; drive it during the day (you want to do this anyway!) so you know what it's like, and just take it easy and you'll be fine day or night. On the trip back down, downshift at the steeper places and save your brakes. If someone catches up with you, just let them pass; there's little traffic on this road at night, but it often it is people working up the hill, and they're often in a hurry.

Two, I've noticed the road to Polihale Beach (past PMRF, the military base at the west end of 50) is specifically verboten in some car rental agreements. I don't know if that will apply to you, but if it does, you didn't hear it from me! :)

That's certainly a great point about the red dust! They use that stuff to dye souvenir T-shirts. It never fades.

Have a great trip! Kauai won't fit your stereotype of Hawaii. Say hi the Southern Cross for me while you're there!

#13 hm insulators

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 08:33 PM

Something that just dawned on me, chaoscosmos: I don't know the exact URL, but simply google Kauai Visitors Bureau, and you might be able to e-mail somebody there that you want to do some stargazing and is there an astronomy club that might loan or rent out a telescope?

#14 csrlice12

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 07:40 AM

Hey, All you Hawaiian astronomers out there, are you there? I know there's at least a couple of people on various threads from Hawaii..

If anyone comes to the Denver area, PM me and I'll gladly pass on local data like this...

#15 Startraffic

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:55 AM

Ray,
Thanx for posting this. As it turns out it looks as if I'll be headed to Kauai on August for a week. :jump: I don't know exactly where I'll be staying but I'm definitely planning on taking my PST & camera tripod with me & possibly a 90mmf3 that I use a a guidescope.

Skip,
That's is a great idea.

HM,
Thanx a LOT, great info re: red dust, & renting a scope.

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#16 SkipW

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:08 PM

Have a great trip, Startraffic! Kauai is a great place.

Don't forget to do some "Hawaii Things" while you're there, too. Take surfing lessons. Go on a Na Pali Coast boat tour and, if you have the money, a helicopter tour of the island is cool (but NOT cheap).

#17 hm insulators

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 04:24 PM

Ray,
Thanx for posting this. As it turns out it looks as if I'll be headed to Kauai on August for a week. :jump: I don't know exactly where I'll be staying but I'm definitely planning on taking my PST & camera tripod with me & possibly a 90mmf3 that I use a a guidescope.

Skip,
That's is a great idea.

HM,
Thanx a LOT, great info re: red dust, & renting a scope.

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If you can, stay down on the south shore, at Poipu. That part of the island gets less rain than the east or north shores.

#18 Startraffic

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 09:36 PM

Skip,
Well it looks like it's a GO! :jump: :jump: We'll be staying at my wife's aunts' place. I think (I hope) her husband still has his 14" RCX400. He bought 2 of them, 1 for their place in NV, the other in Kauai. Neither one has been used since he passed away 10 yrs ago. I've offered to check it out & see if it still works. It might take me the whole week to make sure though. :roflmao: I downloaded the manual to see if there are any oddball tools I might need to take with me.
I checked on renting a scope, $50/day for an 8"dob $80/night for a 12". I think I'll bring my PST & a small tripod at least if the RCX is DOA.

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#19 David Castillo

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 12:50 PM

Looks like things are all falling in place. Book your flight and reserve a rental car now-who knows what prices will be like after summer gets rolling. I sure envy you-kauii is paradise.
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#20 Footbag

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 01:15 PM

I don't want to discourage you, but Kauai was my least favorite of the islands. Yes. It is paradise, but I found it a bit boring. For that matter, there isn't much to do besides observing.

In Hawaii, you can get a taxi to the airport and fly from island to island in a couple of hours. The only reason I'm telling you this is that Volcano's National park on the big island was the most amazing experience of my life. A sky full of stars and lava glowing beneath your feet. It is worth the trip.

I love Maui and Oahu as well. For some reason, I never got the same feeling from Kauai. And I've met a lot of people who had the same feeling.

#21 Startraffic

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 05:30 PM

Adam,
We don't plan on spending the ENTIRE week in Kauai. Volcano Natl IS definitely on the list, along with the Lava Tunnel. My kids & I want to go snorkeling. SWMBO wants to see every single museum there is. The Arizona is also on the list.

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#22 SkipW

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 05:39 PM

To each his own. I've only been to Kauai and Oahu, never to Maui or the Big Island, although I'd like to someday. I much prefer Kauai to Oahu simply because it's far more serene and FAR less crowded, but completely understand that one man's serenity is another's boredom. Kauai doesn't have an exciting nightlife for sure, but that doesn't bother me.

That's great, StarTraffic! Do you know where on the island your Aunt's place is? Don't spend all your time messing with that telescope, but I'd love to have a good 'scope up at that overlook! If you do try surfing for the first time, don't plan on doing a lot that evening!

#23 Startraffic

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 08:58 PM

Skip,
Well, we got the plane tickets confirmed for next month. We'll be in Princeville. The only "down" side is I have some "work" to do.
Shortly before my wife's, aunt's husband passed away some 10 yrs ago, he had become interested in astronomy & gotten the opportunity to buy 3 Meade 14" RCX400s. One for each of his homes, which he had planned to network together for his own simultaneous observations & cover 1/2-2/3 of the planet with his observatories. One each in Princeton, Kauai, & Bali. He passed away before he could realize this plan. However, all 3 of these 'scopes have been sitting in their observatories for the last 10 years unused. Since I'm going to be there, & I am within driving distance of the one here, I'm being tasked to check out the 'scope & obs to make the network function. I'm set to do Princeton this weekend. This will give me an idea of what to expect. We'll see what unfolds, but this could be great. I might even get a trip to Bali out of it.

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#24 Saint Aardvark

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 10:10 PM

I'm profoundly jealous. Please keep us posted so I can experience all of this vicariously. :)

#25 Startraffic

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 06:48 PM

All,
I do indeed have an update. Things be movin' fast.
There are not 3 but 4 of the 14" RCX400s in the mix. One each in New Jersey, Nevada, Kauai, and Bali. Nothing has been operated in 15 years! All are to refurbished and networked to be fully autonomous Observatories able to image 24/7 weather/seeing permitting. I may be in over my head. "Mrs D", the owner of these scopes, has zero interest in astronomy, but has no issue with the gear being used, provided it doesn't disturb her. I think I can arrange that by disallowing access to the obs where she is when she is there. I'm not sure what the dome make(s) are but from what I remember seeing at her place in Nevada (~15yrs ago), that dome was either a 10ft ED or PD. I believe that "Mrs D's" husband didn't like a hodgepodge of gear. If he got something, he got the same thing, & it was the best he could get. We'll see this weekend what is in New Jersey. I'd be willing to bet it's the same as Nevada. Nevada is now scheduled for a look see on 8/3-4.
If I can get these scopes up & running in a network. I hope to be able to put them up as a amateur astronomers sky network. I'll flesh out those details this weekend with "Mrs D's" son. We're to meet up in NJ for that checkout. "RD" said he didn't have a problem in theory with using the scopes in that manner, but we'd have to hash out the the actual details based on what we find at each site. He did say that "Mrs. D" was absolutely adamant about not being disturbed by somebody using the Obs. When I explained that no-one would be actually at the Obs, their "presence" would only virtual, he was confused but understood once I explained that the domes would be completely autonomous, except for possibly an annual maintenance checkup that would be scheduled around "Mrs. D's" schedule. This folx, could be something very special, and we may not have to experience this vicariously :cool:. More to follow.

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