Tag Archives: Telescopes

Atop Mauna Kea

Three telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea at sunset
A wind turbine with snow covered Mauna Kea in the background

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Mountain Top.’ See more responses here.

Mauna Kea is the highest mountain on earth, when measured from its base to its peak. It logs in at 33,476 feet, 13,803 of which are above sea level.

The top photo is a late afternoon view from near the summit of Mauna Kea, with the Subaru Telescope on the left and the two Keck Telescopes to the right. The top of the cloud layer lies a thousand or more feet below them, which is one of the reasons it’s such a prime site for astronomy.

The second photo is a view from Upolu, showing the summit with a lot of snow on it. While this photo was taken in February, the volcano is high enough that snow can fall at any time of year.

View of Mauna Kea

There are 13 telescopes atop Mauna Kea, but while they’re all one of a kind in that regard, they vary in how they make observations. Some collect visual light, some infrared. Others are used for radio astronomy. I’d go in to more detail about this, but the science is as far over my head as the telescopes are in this photo!

Posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.

Yucca flowers

I see this stand of yuccas on the drive into Waimea and watch for it to bloom. When it does, late afternoons are the best time for photographs so I try to remember to stop on the way back from hiking off Saddle Road or at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In this instance, it was the latter, and I was passing by around 6 pm.

Look closely at the top photo and the telescopes of Mauna Kea can be seen in the distant background, which is a bit unusual for this time of day, morning being their time to shine.

Mauna Kea telescopes

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Near and Far.’ See more offerings here.

The photo above shows a distant view of some of the telescopes atop Mauna Kea, silhouetted against an early morning sky. Below is a closer look at the Gemini Northern Telescope, which sits a little way north of the summit of Mauna Kea.

Keck 1 and 2 telescopes

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Twins.’ (See more responses here.)

These are the two telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea. Keck 1 began operation in November, 1990, while Keck 2 made its first observations in October 1996. Each telescope’s 10-meter primary mirror is made up of 36 segments, hexagonal in shape. Not that these segments are small themselves. Each one is 1.8 meters wide and weighs half a ton.

The telescopes can accommodate a wide variety of instruments, such as cameras and spectrometers, and are considered to be the most scientifically productive in the world.

For more information about the W. M. Keck Observatory, go to www.keckobservatory.org.

Mauna Loa Observatory

Mauna Loa Observatory

Mauna Loa Observatory access roadThe top of Mauna Kea is dotted with telescopes, but Mauna Loa’s summit is bare save for some small pieces of equipment monitoring the volcano’s seismic activity and small changes in inflation and deflation.

However, just above the 11,000 foot level on Mauna Loa’s northern slope is the Mauna Loa Observatory. The observatory is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Earth System Research Laboratory – Global Monitoring Division.

Since 1958, the observatory has been monitoring changes in the atmosphere and in particular, levels of carbon dioxide, one of the leading contributors to global warming. It’s the world’s oldest continuous carbon dioxide monitoring station, which is ironic given that it’s situated in one of the few countries on Earth not subject to global warming (and if you’re wondering how that works, all you have to do is go to the beach, stick your head in the sand and, voila, no more global warming.).

In the top photo, the two domes on the left house solar sensors operated by the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory which shares the site. The bottom photo shows the observatory under a near full moon. And in the middle is a view back down the road to the observatory, an up and down, winding one-lane road, which is one of my favorite drives on the island.

For more information on the Mauna Loa Observatory, go to https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/.

Mauna Loa Observatory and moon

Smithsonian Submillimeter Array

Smithsonian Submillimeter array

Smithsonian Submillimeter array dishesSmithsonian Submillimeter array dishes with textAnother response to the last edition of the WordPress photo challenge with a theme of ‘All time favorites.’

I post this for two reasons. The first is that recently I had an exchange on this blog with the wife of the Director of the Submillimeter Array (SMA). The second is that Mauna Kea is a favorite place of mine to visit.

So here are a couple of photos of the SMA taken a few years back. The dishes are mounted on those little round pads in the photos, and they can be moved to different pads to produce different configurations. In my ignorance of most things scientific, I marvel at the idea of moving a dish a few meters makes a big difference in observations of things way the heck out there in space. That’s not an official measurement there.

The top photo shows seven of the eight dishes that make up the array.
The other photos, of three dishes and what immediately popped into my head when I saw them, show why I never made it as a scientist.

For more information about the Submillimeter Array, go to https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/sma/.