The Keck Observatory
An aerial view of the Keck Observatory(1)

Background and Usage
Located on the summit of Mauna Kea mountain, the Keck Observatory consists of twin reflecting 10 meter telescopes that work in unison with each other to produce the most accurate images of our universe as possible. The observatory was named after W.M. Keck whose son, Howard B. Keck of the W.M. Keck Foundation, donated the funds to
W.M. Keck(4)

build the telescopes. The building of the telescopes was overseen by both the University of California and the California Institute of Technology. The first telescope to be completed, Keck I, started to observe the universe after its completion in 1993. Its twin, Keck II, soon followed in 1996. The two telescopes, the largest optical and infrared telescopes in the world, were strategically placed on the summit of Mauna Kea to ensure that the images received from the telescopes do not get disturbed by city lights or oceanic movements. The position also offers great weather for astronomical observations because it is relatively clear at the top of the mountain for most of the year.(1)

The AO lasers at work (5)

In 2004, the Keck Observatory launched its first adaptive optics initiative. Here, the Keck telescopes utilize lasers to accurately located and take pictures of stars. The practice of this has become so precise that the images produced from adaptive optics result in better pictures than even the Hubble Space Telescope.With the introduction of adaptive optics, the telescopes have become more accurate and are now able to reconcile for the disruptions caused by the moving of the earth.

Structure of the Telescopes

A cutout view of the structure of the Keck Observatory(2)

The telescopes lie atop Mauna Kea at 4,205 meters above sea level. To add to the height, each telescope stands 8 stories tall and is housed in a dome like structure that rotates to make sure the telescopes are facing the desired part of the universe. The dome has at total volume of 700,000 cubic feet and the entire structure is climate controlled to ensure that none of the equipment is damaged to changes in temperature.To work together to create images, the telescopes are precisely located 85 meters apart. Each telescope weighs in at about 270 tons.(2)

An artist rendering of the mirrors inside the Keck telescopes (3)

The inside of the Keck I and Keck II are defined by the 10 meter mirrors that are the pivotal elementsfor the telescopes function. As seen in the picture to the right, the inside of the Keck telescopes rely onthe 10 meter mirror as their primary mirror which is segmented into 36 hexagonal pieces that work in unison to produce one image. This mirror then reflects back to a secondary mirror which reflects to a tertiary mirror and finally to the focus of the telescope to produce a visual image.
One of the Keck telescopes (6)


This image shows the Keck telescope with the DEIMOS instrument behind it (7)

Keck I
  • ADC

Keck II
  • ESI
  • NIRC2

Most of these instruments are spectrographs that are used to collect different types of astronomical data based on the light spectrums presented by various objects in the universe.Some of the instruments are also spectrometers that are utilized to break down the light that is reflected into the telescope in order to determine the intensity and in-turn distance of the object from earth.

Interesting Videos

Works- Cited


  1. "Keck Observatory | The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence at UC Berkeley." SETI at Berkeley | The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence at UC Berkeley. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>
  2. "Keck Observatory - Agencies and Observatories Reference Library - RedOrbit." RedOrbit - Science, Space, Technology, Health News and Information. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.
  3. Prism, A. "ASTR 121, O'CONNELL. Study Guide 14 [Spring 2009]." University of Virginia Department of Astronomy. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.

  1. "THE OBSERVATORY." W. M. Keck Observatory. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.
  2. "TELESCOPES." W. M. Keck Observatory. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.
  3. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.



Outside Sources

  1. Leutwyler, Kristin. "'First Light' for Twin Telescopes: Scientific American." Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. 16 Mar. 2001. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.
  2. "North Hawaii News Articles from CFHT." Canada France Hawaii Telescope. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. <>.