Maui’s Night Sky at 20.5 Degrees in the Tropics

The Hawaiian Islands are situated between the latitudes of 19° N and 22°N, with its midpoint at 20.5° N, which is where Launiupoko in West Maui is located.  Within the Tropic of Cancer, Hawai‘i has a vantage point of stars appearing not only north of the equator but at certain times of year from the southern sky as they rise above the horizon.

The night sky in Launiupoko where ambient light is minimal can be dazzling. Constellations and planets illuminate the darkness like a cache of diamonds glittering against a backdrop of black velvet.  One of my favorite times of year for stargazing is late fall to early winter …

Makali‘i (little eyes) or Pleiades, rises between mountain peaks in Launiupoko Valley and follows Orion like a litter of puppies across the sky. The Little Dipper is easy to spot with Hokupa‘a (Polaris) at the top of its handle. It’s flanked by ‘Iwakeli‘i (Cassiopeia) rotating southeast and Na Hiku (The Big Dipper) rotating northwest. The Milky Way arcs over the ocean like a broad brushstroke. When the alignment is right, Venus or Mars often make an appearance as the brightest sphere in the west. In the early morning hours, the Southern Cross appears upright low in the horizon to the south.

A moonbow can often be seen when the full moon rises over Mauna Kahalawai and illuminates clouds covering the island of Lana‘i across the ocean. On a full moon night in the tropics, don’t be surprised if you see moonshadows dancing to the caress of balmy tradewinds …

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