‘Imiloa is getting astronomical again

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Zane Kami uses large blocks to build a creation with his dad, Ian Kami, at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. Members could come back to the center for the first time this weekend.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Kaizen Kami uses a new, interactive map of the Big Island to explore weather patterns Saturday with docent Lisa Spain at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. The map was created by University of Hawaii at Hilo computer science students.

On Saturday morning, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center opened its doors to welcome members back for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center were invited to visit the exhibit hall and planetarium a week before the center opens to the general public on Saturday, July 24.

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To ease into it’s reopening, ‘Imiloa only will be open on the weekends and will operate with three blocks of time each day, with forty people allowed inside the center per block.

The first block is 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with the planetarium program beginning at 10 a.m.; the second block is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with the program beginning at 12:30 p.m.; and the last block is 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the program beginning at 3 p.m.

“We have felt so bad not being able to serve our members, who are such an important part of our business,” said Yu Yok Pearring, spokeswoman for ‘Imiloa. “We’ve been looking forward to opening for so long, and it’s great to finally see life come back.”

Families walked through the exhibit hall Saturday to explore new displays and participate in different crafts and activities set up through out the hall.

Keiki also received an ‘Imiloa Kilo Book, which is a journal to enhance the experience of interacting with different exhibit hall spaces and the native garden.

“No matter what, we want to keep fostering keiki’s interest in science and always offer hands-on activities to help them learn,” Pearring said. “We just want to make sure we do so safely.”

‘Imiloa docent Lisa Spain helped Kaizen Kami, 7, use a new, interactive map of the Big Island to explore the many weather patterns experienced on the island. Kami stood at the map, which was created by computer science students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and talked with Spain for an extended period of time.

“Those interactions are so special, and I’m so glad we can have that back,” Spain said. “It’s great seeing everyone explore all the exhibits and ask questions.”

Wainani Ballard bought a membership at ‘Imiloa to send her daughter to the summer program, Halau Lamaku, last summer. After a great experience, Mila Lee was ready to show her younger brothers around the center.

“We had to come back after my daughter participated in the summer program,” Ballard said. “She had to show her brothers around and they seem to love it. We’re all excited for the planetarium.”

‘Imiloa plans to continue operating on weekends with blocked times through next month, but will reassess its plans as needed.

“We’re communicating with museums on the mainland and we have a good network to share our experiences with,” Pearring said. “For right now, we want to learn as we go and see what happens with COVID-19 in the next few weeks.”

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While this weekend was sold out, anyone interested in purchasing tickets for future weekends can do so at http://imiloahawaii.org/.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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