What is the Hokulani Imaginarium?
Windward Community College's Hokulani Imaginarium is a high-tech planetarium and multi-media facility that functions as a specialized theater in scientific visualization. The Imaginarium serves both the college's credit programs and its non-credit community outreach efforts.

What does "Hokulani" mean?
In Hawaiian, "hoku" means "star" and "lani" means "heavens", so Hokulani means for Starry Heavens.

What does "Imaginarium" mean?
Coined from the words "imagination" and "planetarium," the Imaginarium is a visual learning environment where anything one can imagine can be visualized through the planetarium's digital computer graphics technology.

Hokulani Imaginarium

What is the difference between an observatory and a planetarium?
   • An observatory is a research facility that houses astronomical telescopes used to observe the real sky. The observatory's dome has a shutter door that opens whenever telescopic observations are conducted.
   • A planetarium is virtual reality theater that houses specialized projectors that re-create the real sky. The planetarium's inner hemispherical dome serves like the screen of a movie theater. Unlike its observatory counterpart, the planetarium's dome does not open.

How big is the Imaginarium?
The theater has a 40-foot diameter dome with 84 seats and four spaces for wheelchairs.

What is special about the seats?
Each seat is permanently adjusted to the ideal tilt so the audience can sit back and comfortably view images on the dome overhead. Our seats are also equipped with an interactive control panel so the audience can actively participate in some shows by using the buttons to interact with the visual display on the screen above.

interactive seating


A brief history of the Imaginarium.
The Hokulani Imaginarium opened in the summer of 2000 and was officially dedicated on Oct 12, 2001. Its original Evans and Sutherland DigiStar II projector system was replaced in Oct 2010 with a fulldome Sky-Skan DigitalSky 2 system.    The theater's seating capacity was increased from 66 to 84 in February 2014 when the central projector pit was removed.    In the summer of 2021, the Imaginarium underwent a major upgrade with the installation of an advance Definiti fulldome projection system along with a new sound system and cove lights.

Dome Cross Section
click here for a larger view showing the original cutaway view of the Imaginarium.


Hokulani Imaginarium


What technology does the Imaginarium use?
The Imaginarium uses a Definiti fulldome projection system, consisting of two 4K laser projectors, six channels of digital surround sound, and 360-degree LED covelights. Its graphics are created by a network of computers controlling the DigitalSky planetarium software suite. These computers render its graphics at a rate of 60 frames per second, much smoother than the 24 fps or even 48 fps seen in cinemas. And, the screen wraps completely around your head, far more than even an IMAX theater. In addition, special effects projectors around the Imaginarium re-create such dazzling celestial phenomena as the Aurora Borealis, fireball-like meteors and eclipses.

What makes the DigitalSky so cool?
Like any planetarium, DigitalSky can display the sky from any point on Earth, at any time in the past, present or future. And it also can fly you through an accurate model of the universe to visit neighboring planets, distant stars and colliding galaxies.  DigitalSky lets you stand on a moon of Saturn and watch its rings rise over the horizon. ... or fly out into interplanetary space aboard a speeding spacecraft ... or perhaps venture into deep space to gaze back at our Milky Way galaxy.

DigitalSky is not just a virtual spaceship. It's a time machine as well — enabling you to watch as the constellations transform from their shapes of 20,000 years ago to the modern pictures we see today, and then ;peek at their appearance 20,000 years into the future. DigitalSky can show you all that and more.

What kinds of images can the Imaginarium show?
Any 3D image, such as models of molecules and architectural renderings of buildings or cities can be displayed. The audience can experience a bigger-than-life journey through the human body, explore inside a DNA molecule, tour around an archaeological site (like the pyramids or a heiau), rocket across space to another galaxy, or travel back in time to the age of the dinosaurs. You can also see photographs and scientific data superimposed on Earth as you look down from orbit, like weather patterns, GIS datasets, and satellite images. And it's not all just astronomy  — the Imaginarium has shows about archaeology, biology, coral reefs, dinosaurs, earthquakes, flying machines, Polynesia, and much more.

The Imaginarium can also be used as a presentation venue, to project a film or computer screen in front of an audience, with a live narrator or recorded soundtrack played through the sound system.  

Finally, the Imaginarium also hosts entertaining musical events, like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd shows, with colorful computer-generated images played back together with the music you already love.

Is the Imaginarium open to the public?
Yes, there are usually three regularly scheduled public shows each month. For public show info, click here.

How can school groups book visits to the Imaginarium?
For school visit information, click here.

Is the Imaginarium available for private events?
Yes, the Imaginarium may be rented out for special private events like birthday parties or fundraisers. Contact the Imaginarium Manager for details.

What handicap accommodations are available?
The Imaginarium has four designated areas for wheelchairs as well as a handicapped accessible seat. The theater is also equipped with assisted hearing devices that are available upon request.

What parking accommodations are available?
There's ample, free parking on the Windward Community College campus. School buses and handicap-designated vehicles may drop passengers off at the Loading Zone in front of the Imaginarium. For parking locations, see campus map.


Hokulani Imaginarium

Center for Aerospace Education
Hokulani Imaginarium
Windward Community College

updated: 1/16/22