The Big Island
W. M. Keck Observatory

The W. M. Keck Observatory holds the two largest optical and infrared telescopes in the world, both of which weigh 300 tons. Because there is very little light pollution and no mountain ranges to obscure the upper atmosphere, the observatory is in a great location for viewing outer space.

Design for the telescopes began in 1977 at the University of California, and construction began in 1985. The first telescope came into use in 1993, and the second telescope debuted in 1996. Today, both telescopes use the most advanced and efficient technology to make observations. The scientists at the observatory use adaptive optics, a technique that corrects turbulence in the atmosphere by using a mirror that rapidly changes shape. The mirror can change 2,000 times per second, which helps provide the clearest possible picture.

Schools and other groups can visit the W. M. Keck Observatory to learn more about astronomy and the two telescopes. The observatory's employees can lead activities for younger children to explain the science and technology behind the telescopes.

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