Journey Through the Universe 2018

Journey Through the Universe

Gemini’s flagship astronomy education and outreach program, Journey Through the Universe (Journey), celebrated a successful 14th year with a week of educational programming from March 5-9.

“Journey Through the Universe would not succeed without the help of our community partners and sponsors, including the Department of Education, Hawai’i Island business community, Maunakea Observatories, and NASA, among many others,” said Janice Harvey, Journey Through the Universe program coordinator. “Their continued support is a demonstration of their commitment to our community and the future of science education for Hawai’i students.”

Day 1 – Monday, March 5th

Astronomy Educator’s Reception at the Hilo Yacht Club

The Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce (HICC) and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai’i (JCCIH) hosted a celebration for the astronomy community, the Department of Education and the business community. This annual event included Hilo-Waiākea/Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa (KKP) Complex Area Superintendent Keone Farias, Journey Through the Universe (Journey) alumnus Devin Chu, and Gemini Observatory director Laura Ferrarese as featured guest speakers.

UCLA Astronomy PhD student (and Hilo High alumnus!) Devin Chu shares how the Journey program was influential in his life.

Gemini Observatory Journey Team Leader, Janice Harvey (left) and Superintendend of the Hilo/Waiākea and Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa Complex Areas Keone Farias (right).

Hilo High School Career Panel

Journey Astronomy Educators visited classrooms in the Hilo-Waiākea/Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa (KKP) Complexes, as well as schools in Honokaʻa and Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island. Along with classroom visits, several observatory professionals held a panel at Waiākea and Hilo High schools to discuss the diverse careers available at an observatory.

Left to right: Gemini Safety Manager John Vierra, UCLA Astronomy PhD student, Devin Chu, Gemini Interim Director Laura Ferrarese, Astrobiology PhD student Niki Thomas, W. M. Keck Observatory Software Engineer Liz Chock, and W. M. Keck Observatory Chief of Operations Rich Matsuda. Both John and Devin are Hilo High alumni!

Classroom Visits

Our Public Information and Outreach department followed Geminiʻs Science Operation Specialist Jocelyn Ferrera and Science Fellow Matt Taylor to Waiākea Elementary School. The pair taught classes of 4th graders about constellations, stories behind Orion and the Big Dipper, then built the constellations in 3D and observed them from different perspectives.

Jocelyn Ferrera (left) and Matt Taylor place students in order to construct 3D constellations, iterating how perspective affects how constellations appear on Earth.

Day 2 – Tuesday, March 6th

Classroom Visits

Journey educators (along with reporting crew from the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald) followed former Gemini Public Information and Outreach intern and current NASA Solar System Ambassador Sylvia Kowalski to Waiākeawaena Elementary School. Kowalski taught the 3rd grade classes how to construct paper rockets – engineered using tape and plastic straws. Students also learned how rockets work, building their understanding of how humans get to space!

Third-graders use their breath as fuel to launch their handmade paper rockets at Waiākeawaena Elementary School in Hilo. Credit: Hollyn Johnson/Tribune-Herald


This yearʻs Journey program included NASAʻs PlutoPalooza team. In July 2015, New Horizons reached dwarf-planet Pluto and captured incredible images, allowing us to study Pluto in stunning detail. The community was given a rare opportunity to meet the men and women who captured Plutoʻs “heart” with amazing images, personal stories, and fascinating science!

On Tuesday morning, the team met over 60 third graders at ʻImiloa Astronomy Center to explore Pluto and the features discovered by New Horizons during its flyby. That evening, the team gave a free, public talk at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

The PlutoPalooza team Veronica Bray, Alice Bowman, Marc Buie, and Randy Monroe (left to right) attended the Astronomy Educatorʻs Reception at the Hilo Yacht Club.

Hilo High School Career Panel

Gemini Web Architect Jason Kalawe (standing), shares his career path and advice with Hilo High School students. This panel also included (left to right) East Asia Observatoryʻs Acting Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey, Astrobiology PhD student Niki Thomas, UCLA Astronomy PhD student Devin Chu, and Gemini Safety Manager John Vierra (not pictured).

Day 3 – Wednesday, March 7th

Classroom Visits

We followed more of Geminiʻs Public Information and Outreach department into the classroom. Gemini Media Relations and Local Outreach assistant, Alexis Acohido, showed 7th graders at Waiākea Intermediate School the layers of a space suit, and explained the importance of each in protecting astronauts.

Acohido explains one of the many layers of a spacesuit and demonstrates how an astronaut “gets dressed” for work.

Jasmin Silva, Media Relations and Outreach intern, taught Waiākea High Schoolʻs AP Environmental Science class about exoplanet detection methods, including mathematical tools to determine the size of a planet, and the difficulty behind directly imaging planets that are outside of our Solar System.

Day 4 – Thursday, March 8th

Classroom Visits

Gemini Northʻs Safety Manager, John Vierra, visited Waiākeawaena Elementary School to teach students about our home, the Solar System. Vierra taught them about each planet and their place in the Solar System, leading to the construction of a “pocket Solar System,” which demonstrates the scale of the distance between the planets.

Students, representing planets, line up to demonstrate the order of celestial bodies in our Solar System.

Day 5 – Friday, March 9th

Classroom Visits

On the final day of this yearʻs Journey week, we again followed more of the Public Information and Outreach department into the classroom. Christine Copes, Outreach Assistant and Hannah Blomgren, Media Relations and Outreach intern, demonstrate the timeline of the universe as scaled down to one calendar year. Students guess when the events occurred by placing them on the calendar, later explained by Blomgren.

Blomgren created this activity, aiming to teach important events that occurred as the universe formed and evolved, and to illustrate how brief human existence is in the scheme of time.

Copes (blue shirt) and Blomgren assist students who are determining when pivotal astronomical and biological events happened on a cosmic timescale.

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