It’s no accident that NASA and other institutions are broadcasting the 2012 transit of Venus from observatories on Hawaii. Ancient Hawaiians were skillful sea navigators, and for this they of course needed intense star knowledge. Sitting nearly astride the equator, Hawaii is perfectly situated for viewing both the northern and southern night skies, as this video from NASA Sun Earth Day points out below.
While the Mayans studied Venus particularly closely, accurately predicting its placement in the sky thousands of years into the future, the Hawaiians avidly studied the skies in general. The last king of Hawaii, King Kalakaua, was known as the astronomer king. He and his people welcomed the British when they arrived to observe the transit of 1881.
Today some of the most important observatories are situated on the archipelago’s highest peaks. Below, some history about Hawaiian astronomy and how it dovetailed with initial contact.
Don’t forget to check out all our other transit of Venus coverage, including who will watch and where the viewing parties are (including online), our online guide to information about the 2012 transit of Venus, and our guide to watching it safely. (Hint: Save those solar eclipse glasses!)