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Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea Observatories — Hawaii is Earth’s connecting point to the rest of the Universe. The summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii hosts the world’s largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries.

The combined light-gathering power of the telescopes on Mauna Kea is fifteen times greater than that of the Palomar telescope in California — for many years the world’s largest — and sixty times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The observatories

There are currently thirteen working telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea. Nine of them are for optical and infrared astronomy, three of them are for submillimeter wavelength astronomy and one is for radio astronomy.

They include the largest optical/infrared telescopes in the world (the Keck telescopes) and the largest submillimeter telescope in the world (the JCMT). The Submillimeter Array is currently nearing completion, while the westernmost antenna of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is situated at a lower altitude two miles from the summit.

The geography of Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea (“White Mountain”) is a dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii, the largest and southernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. It is located about 300 km (190 miles) from the capital city, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.

The highest point in the Pacific Basin, and the highest island-mountain in the world, Mauna Kea rises 9,750 meters (32,000 ft) from the ocean floor to an altitude of 4,205 meters (13,796 ft) above sea level, which places its summit above 40 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The broad volcanic landscape of the summit area is made up of cinder cones on a lava plateau. The lower slopes of Mauna Kea are popular for hunting, hiking, sightseeing, and bird watching in an environment that is less hostile than the barren summit area.

Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea Observatory


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