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Friends Assist IfA Outreach to the Community

Photo by Phil Whitney.


The Friends of the IfA are helping to spread knowledge of astronomy and the IfA to the people of Hawai`i as part of the overall outreach program of the Institute. For instance, the Friends support the Frontiers of Astronomy quarterly public talks by helping with publicity, hosting receptions for donors, and encouraging attendees to sign up for email notification of future IfA events. The latter has added over 1,200 new Friends and potential donors to the Friends' email list.

Another way the Friends assist the IfA is by supporting the annual Open House. They staff a booth that promotes the Friends, encourages new donors, and provides the opportunity to sign up for email notification of upcoming IfA events. Last year, 185 people were added to the Friends' list during the Open House.

The Friends have also quietly supported a longstanding series of astronomy talks to groups throughout O`ahu. This program started in 2000, when IfA astronomer Jim Heasley and Friend Phil Whitney teamed up to present talks to Rotary Clubs. Built on Whitney's extensive contacts with fellow Rotarians, the program grew, and 56 IfA talks to over 5,000 people have been given to Rotary and other groups of business and civic leaders. So far, most of these talks have centered on the solar system, but there have also been talks about the birth of stars and planets, and new telescope developments, such as the Thirty Meter Telescope, Pan-STARRS, and the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope. In the future, there will be talks about galaxies, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the early Universe.

To conserve the time and effort of the astronomers, organizations targeted for talks must have a minimum of 25 members and be situated nearby. The Friends make the initial contacts, prepare advance promotional materials and a biography of the speaker, provide transportation, give an introduction that describes the IfA and the Friends, make available informational handouts, and sign up attendees interested in email notification of future events.

IfA astronomers who have participated in the program include IfA Director Rolf Kudritzki, Paul Coleman, Shadia Habbal, Robert Jedicke, David Jewitt, Lisa Kewley, Jeff Kuhn, Bob McLaren, Karen Meech, Richard Wainscoat, Jonathan Williams, and Gareth Wynn-Williams. This program has been met with universal acclaim because these astronomers are very skilled at explaining astronomy to people in understandable and interesting terms.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Friends, please contact us by sending an email to or calling (808) 956-6665 and leaving a message.