Mauna Kea. The best place on Earth for human beings to look out into the cosmos. At 14,000 feet, and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, more than 2000 miles from the nearest land mass, this is the clearest air you will find, and the night sky will be the brightest you will ever see. That is why a dozen of the largest, most advanced, astronomical observatories have been built on top of this volcano. It is the next best thing to being out in space. Here the eyes of Gaia look out into the vastness of space, out to the edges of the universe, to the cosmos as it was more than 10 billion years ago.
Here, in early April, 2004, I observed the line of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter stretch across the evening sky. Venus was at its brightest for seven years, and from atop the volcano the brightest I am ever likely to see it. So bright it cast a shadow. Whereas the shadow cast by the sun or moon have soft edges, due to their large diameters, Venus is just a point of light and its shadow is sharp.
Date created: 12-Dec-05