Sunrise shadow

Hawaii day 6: the enormous shadow of Maunakea cast on the clouds below at sunrise, the shiny enclosure of the Subaru telescope catching the morning light. In the bottom left is one of the antennas of the SMA interferometer.

I still remember the first time I saw the shadow of Mauna Kea cast onto the clouds below, on my very first trip to the mountain back in January 1991. It was a powerful demonstration of the fact that I was up here standing near the top of a very tall mountain, and one that is far enough from its neighbours to cast such a perfect triangular shadow. I may have taken a photo when I first saw this shadow all those years ago but if I did, it’s hidden away in a box of prints.

Fast forward another 22 years to my January 2013 trip to Mauna Kea. We finished the overnight observing shift and headed up to the summit ridge to catch the sunrise. The mountain shadow spread before us like a giant version of one of the Egyptian pyramids, an absolutely stunning sight. The shiny enclosure for the Subaru Telescope adds an extra touch, reflecting the colours of the sky. All my time on Mauna Kea has been as a visiting astronomer; I’d like to go back as a tourist and take my time to watch the sunset and sunrise from the highest point in the Pacific.