Photography : Astronomy : The Keck II Primary Mirror

The amazing segmented 33 foot (10 meter) wide primary mirror of the Keck II telescope is a tricky subject for photography. Each of thos segments is 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide. Why is it called Keck II and not just Keck? There are two Keck telescopes, twins of each other, on Mauna Kea. When I first came to graduate school, I had the good fortune that my advisor wanted me to tag along for an observing run on the mightly Keck telescope. He had been to Hawaii and back so many times it was old hat for him, but it was an amazing thing for me, especially for my first observing run! The telescope is located at the top of Mauna Kea at a height of 14,000 feet (almost 4,300 meters) above sea level. We visited the summit, with our car barely making it in the rarefied air. We barely made it in the rarefied air, too; having to pause after walking 10 feet (3 meters) up a hill. We were rewarded with a tour of the dome by one of the telescope technicians. Even better, they were servicing the telescope and so we got to see the massive mirror move. It's quite a site to see that big a mirror swing around to point at you. I tried to take a zoomed in photo of the mirror, but I caught a little of myself in the shot.

Visiting astronomers don't observe at the summit. The lack of oxygen plays hob with the thinking brain, especially after staying up all night. Guest observers control the camera and video conference with the Mauna Kea telescope operatures from facilities in Waimea at 2500 feet (almost 800 meters).


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