Aloha Astrophotography

On the shores of Waipahu, Hawaii, a PlaneWave CDK400 observatory system now rests atop a high school building overlooking Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. As the first telescope installed at a high school in Hawaii, the PlaneWave team was honored to be a part of the school’s historic installation which will serve STEM students’ research and education as they prepare for college-level courses. 

Waipahu CDK400 in dome

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders at Waipahu High School purchased the CDK400 system with funds from a private investor for their advanced college-preparatory STEM programs so students could experience hands-on learning for observation, astrophotography, and research. 

The PlaneWave team helped assemble the school’s new 12.5-ft Astro Haven dome which will protect their CDK17 telescope and L-500 mount— the advanced PlaneWave products that comprise the CDK400 system. This dome offers an all-sky view with its clam-shell style, allowing students to observe the entire sky. 

In the coming months, Waipahu High School will work with PlaneWave representatives to remotely operate the observatory system and dome so students can track, observe, and conduct research beyond the classroom. 

Waipahu CDK400 inside the dome

The CDK400 system was an optimal choice for Waipahu High School, as it requires minimal maintenance and thus minimal downtime for repairs. “Telescopes need optical adjustments, just like focusing the lens of a camera, but PlaneWave has made it a priority to create user-friendly telescopes and mounts,” says Matt Dieterich, the Technical Services Manager at PlaneWave. “Ease of use is key for schools and universities so they can keep their systems operational for education and research.” 

PlaneWave teaches every client how to safely and effectively operate their new telescope and software to ensure they’re able to maximize their success. We also offer remote support in case of unexpected challenges. Our team is able to “log in” to their software to troubleshoot problems or offer training and answer questions. We even offer support packages where experienced team members can return to the observatory annually for system maintenance and updated training. 

PlaneWave knows what is required for a successful installation and has a rich network of observatory contractors and consultants who can assist with quoting, designing, and building observatory solutions that work for our clients. 

Waipahu CDK400 in dome

“PlaneWave offers turn-key observatory installation and support, and Waipahu High School has been a great example of the level of service we provide,” says Dieterich. “We helped them select and install an entire observatory and system that worked with the space and funding available while maximizing and prioritizing the educational opportunities available to students.” 

Students at Waipahu High School will now be able to study astrophotography, learn how to observe through a state-of-the-art observatory system, and ignite STEM passions that could lead to future careers in engineering, technology, and astronomy. PlaneWave is thrilled to have been a part of Waipahu High School’s latest advancement and is passionate about designing observatory systems that facilitate astronomical education and research for students, professionals, and amateurs around the world.