This Garden Universe

The Galaxy Garden

The Galaxy Garden at Paleaku Peace Gardens Sanctuary on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Image copyright 2013 Carolyn Collins Petersen.
The Galaxy Garden at Paleaku Peace Gardens Sanctuary on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Image copyright 2013 Carolyn Collins Petersen.

Back when I was in college the first time (about the time of the Triassic), I had an astronomy professor who encouraged us to be creative in our final projects for extra credit. I was already running an A in the class, so I decided to do a book review of a popular “science” book that turned out to be about a hoax subject.  Some of my other classmates were much more creative, and so they turned in things like a pizza in the shape of M51, quilted stars, and star poetry.

I was reminded of that class (and how much fun we had the last day eating that pizza and listening to a poetry reading) when I saw a little blurb online about the Galaxy Garden in Kona, Hawai’i.  It’s an actual garden in the shape of our Milky Way Galaxy and each plant and flower has special significance to help explain the shape and makeup of our galaxy. There’s an amazing wealth of educational info on the website — I suggest you check out the page and its wonderful explanations of the art and design, as well as the science of the garden!

I happen to be a huge fan of the Big Island of Hawai’i.  I did two planetary science field trips there during grad school, went on an eclipse expedition there in 1991, have been to several meetings there and in Honolulu, and I work with the folks at Gemini and Subaru Observatories from time to time with their public outreach materials.

I’m also a fan of Jon Lomberg’s work. He lives on the Big Island but his work is known world-wide. His art is featured in Cosmos (the ground-breaking TV documentary by Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan), and has been commissioned by NASA, the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Sky & Telescope Magazine, and on the covers of various magazines and books.  He’s a great and creative guy and so it’s no surprise that he conceived of and implemented this lovely garden at the Paleaku Peace Gardens Sanctuary in Kona. It looks wonderful and I can’t wait to go back to the Big Island and see it!

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