Why Is Mauna Kea Among the Best Places in the World to View Space?

By Alice Nichols

Mauna Kea, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is among the best places in the world to view space. The mountain stands 13,796 feet above sea level and is often cloaked in snow, making it an ideal location for astronomy. The summit has been home to numerous observatories since 1967 and is one of the most sought-after areas for astronomers from around the world.

The summit of Mauna Kea has some of the clearest air on Earth due to its high elevation, making it perfect for astronomical observation. The dry air also helps minimize light pollution from streetlights and other sources that normally interfere with astronomy research.

Additionally, Mauna Kea offers one of the darkest night skies in the world. This allows astronomers to observe stars, galaxies and other celestial bodies with unparalleled clarity.

The summit also offers a unique combination of altitude and latitude that gives astronomers access to both northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously. This makes it possible to observe a much wider range of objects than would be possible at lower latitudes or elevations. Additionally, because Mauna Kea is located near the equator, it experiences more nights with clear skies than many other observatories around the world.

Mauna Kea’s location also makes it an ideal spot for conducting infrared observations. Infrared radiation can be blocked by water vapor and dust particles at lower elevations, but at Mauna Kea’s high altitude these particles are much fewer in number. This allows infrared radiation from distant stars and galaxies to reach earth more easily.


Mauna Kea is one of the best places in the world for viewing space due to its high elevation, dark night skies, unique combination of latitude and altitude that allows astronomers access to both hemispheres simultaneously, as well as its ideal conditions for infrared observations. All these factors contribute to why Mauna Kea remains one of the most sought-after areas for astronomers across the globe.