Public Visits to Gemini North telescope

Public Visits to Gemini North telescope

NOIRLab is pleased to provide tours at no cost to the Gemini North telescope near the summit of Maunakea on Hawai‘i Island. We make every effort to accommodate the public interested in learning about astronomical research at Gemini and NOIRLab. All visitors to Maunakea will be treated to an orientation to Gemini as well as a cultural, environmental, and resource management presentation by experts at Hale Pōhaku before going up to see the Gemini North telescope

The summit area of Maunakea is located at 13,825 feet above sea level, so it is vitally important that visitors be in good physical condition to participate in the tour. Unfortunately, because of the extreme conditions, minors under 13 years are not permitted on the tours. Minors 13 to 17 are required to be accompanied by an adult when visiting Gemini North. Pets are not allowed including support animals. Drone flights are not allowed. Bring a refillable water bottle and snack.

During the reservation process we will ask you to comply with our Safety and Liability Rules. Please consult them here in advance here:


Types of Tours

There are two types of tours available to the public: Bi-weekly Thursday tours are open to the general public, and once-monthly Saturday tours are open to residents of Hawai‘i only, these are called Kama‘āina Observatory Experience (KOE) tours. The following are the main differences between the two tours. 

Thursday Tours

  • The Thursday tour is open to the public and is held every other week from 10:30 am until approximately 3:00 pm. This tour is limited to 10 visitors per tour.
  • Thursday tour guests will need their own 4WD transportation. No transportation will be provided for any portion of the trip. Visitors without 4WD cars will not be allowed to drive up the mountain. All vehicles must be clean of mud and invasive species. Fuel is not available for sale on the mountain. Fill your tank before departing from sea level. 
  • Bring your own lunch. It is recommended that you bring a small lunch to enjoy while you acclimatize during presentations at Hale Pōhaku.

KOE Tours

  • The KOE tours are exclusively for residents of Hawai‘i and proof of state residency (state ID or driver's license) must be given at the time the reservation is made. 
  • Lunch will be provided free of cost at Hale Pōhaku during the presentation while you acclimatize.
  • Transportation from the Visitor Center to the summit and back will be provided by a licensed tour company. 
  • The KOE tour is limited to 10 visitors per tour and runs from 8 am-1 pm on the first Saturday of each month. The very first date of this type of tour is coming soon. All tour availabilities are reflected in the signup list below. 

What will you see on a Tour ?

Registered visitors will meet at the Visitor Center at the designated time on the day of the visit, where you will be greeted by the NOIRLab tour guide. After checking in with your ID, your guide will lead you to the Hale Pōhaku facility for a brief orientation and mandatory safety briefing (depending on parking availability this may involve a 15 min walk). During the presentation we will eat lunch at Hale Pohaku and acclimatize. We then travel up to the summit in a caravan, arriving at Gemini around 130pm. . 

Upon arrival at the telescope, guests will have their oxygen level checked before touring the facility. Areas you may see include the control room, where you will be introduced to how astronomers work, the coating chamber, where you’ll learn more about the engineering that supports astronomy research, and the telescope dome where you will see the telescope and instruments that capture the light from the Universe. Actual locations visited will depend on the engineering tasks happening on the day of your visit. The tour is approximately 45–60 minutes, after which you will either be on your own to continue your visit on Maunakea (Thursday tour) or return to the visitor center with the KOE tour.

Check out our Facility's Virtual Tour to give you a glimpse of your future visit!

How to book a Public visit 

  • Select a Tour below and complete the Reservation Form at least 24 hours in advance of your desired date.
  • The sites you are visiting are active worksites so please accept the Safety, Liability and Code of Conduct rules and recommendations provided in the Form.
  • Once you have submitted the form, you will receive an automated email informing you that we have received your booking; if you do not receive this notification please check your spam folder and if still not found send an email to us.
  • Please note that every effort will be made to follow through with your planned visit; however, certain circumstances may prevent us from being able to conduct the visit as planned. It is advisable to have a plan B, in case the visit is canceled. This can occur if the site becomes inaccessible due to weather (especially during winter months), earthquake, or if there is an unplanned engineering event etc. The minimum number of confirmed visitors for a scheduled tour is 2 people. If the minimum number of people has not been met, (or the number has fallen below the minimum due to guests canceling) the day before the scheduled visit, it will be canceled. If we need to cancel the visit we will let you know by e-mail or by phone as soon as we become aware of the potential issue. 

Read more about Maunakea’s very special cultural and natural history significance: 

Travel information to visit Gemini North telescope at Maunakea can be found here