The University of Hawaii (UH) is renowned for its unique research facilities, including the Institute of Astronomy (IfA) and the Mauna Kea observatories. Established in 1967, the IfA is responsible for managing the Haleakalā observatories on Maui and the Mauna Kea observatories on the Big Island, as well as conducting its own research into stars, planets, and galaxies. Mauna Kea is an ideal spot for astronomical observation due to its dry atmosphere, lack of clouds, and distance from city lights. This allows for detailed studies and observation of even the faintest galaxies.
The atmosphere above the mountain is isolated from the lower humid maritime air by a tropical inversion cloud layer about 600 meters (2000 feet) thick, which ensures that the skies above the summit are pure and free of pollutants. In 2000, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents adopted the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan to protect Hawaiian cultural beliefs, preserve an environmentally sensitive habitat, and ensure recreational use of the mountain alongside astronomical research. The Visualization and Advanced Applications Laboratory (LAVA) is currently under construction and will research, develop, and commercialize visual analysis technologies. It will also provide training in visualizing big data.
The laboratory has a wide range of equipment such as echoprobes, sublower profilers, gravimeters, magnetometers, Doppler current profilers, CTDs, PCO2s, winches, cranes, and handling equipment. The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope is located at the north end of the summit ridge and was one of three telescopes that came into operation on Mauna Kea in 1980. The microbiology group at UH maintains a server with 40 GB of RAM and 2 TB of high-speed disk space for bioinformatics applications. The SOEST has a computer network support center with all the necessary personnel. UH has a lease from the State of Hawaii for all land within a 2.5-mile radius from the site of the 2.2 m UH Telescope. ATLAS is an early warning system for asteroid impacts developed by UH and funded by NASA.
Researchers at UH work almost all the time on the UH2.2m telescope and between 10 and 15% of the time on other telescopes.