Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by The Wonder Team. The Wonder Team Wonders, “What is Mauna Kea?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, The Wonder Team!

Aloha, Wonder Friends! That’s Hawaiian for “Hello!” if you didn’t already know. We’re visiting the Hawaiian Islands today. We’ll start the day by relaxing under a palm tree. We might even take a dip in the ocean. Tomorrow, we’ll pull on our snowsuits and gloves and ski down the world’s tallest mountain!

We know what you’re thinking, and yes, you can ski in Hawaii. It’s not all pineapples and tiki torches! To hit the slopes, just visit Mauna Kea. In Hawaiian, that means “White Mountain.” Mauna Kea certainly lives up to its name. Its summit is snow-covered and great for skiing.

“But isn’t Mount Everest the world’s tallest mountain?” wise Wonder Friends might ask. Indeed, the top of Mount Everest is the highest point on Earth. But that doesn’t mean it’s the world’s tallest mountain.

Mauna Kea not only reaches high into the sky, but also deep under the water. It reaches 13,803 feet above sea level. That makes the peak of Mauna Kea the highest point in Hawaii. From its base on the ocean floor to its peak, Mauna Kea is 33,500 feet tall! That’s over three times the base to peak height of Mount Everest!

Mauna Kea is actually a volcano. It last erupted over 4,600 years ago. It is dormant right now, but Mauna Kea is likely to erupt again one day. Scientists don’t know when this may happen, but they watch it closely for signs of an eruption.

The White Mountain’s summit is also one of the best places in the world to study the sky. An access road to the summit was built in 1964. Since then, 11 different countries have built 13 large telescopes at the top of Mauna Kea. Its high elevation and dry climate make it the perfect place to stargaze.

Together, these telescopes form one of the world’s largest space observatories. It is not without controversy, however. Some local Hawaiians dislike their sacred mountain being used for such purposes. Others worry for endangered species in the area.

Would you like to visit Mauna Kea? Will you go skiing? Take a good look at outer space? Whatever you do there, be on the lookout for signs of an eruption!

Standards: NGSS.ESS1.C, NGSS.ESS2.B, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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