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Keck Telescope

The most powerful telescope on the summit on Mauna Kea is the twin Keck observatory, which has two 10 metre diameter mirrors. At the heart of each Keck Telescope is a revolutionary primary mirror made up of 36 hexagonal segments that effectively work as a single piece of reflective glass. By combining advanced optical and infrared detectors with sophisticated electronics that can combine collected light from both telescopes, the Keck observatory remains amongst the leading astronomical facilities in the world.

Keck Telescope
Keck Telescope - © Keck

Some facts about the telescope:

  • Observatory location: Mauna Kea, Hawaii
  • Height above sea level: 4,145 metres (13,790 feet)
  • Moving Mass: 270 metric tonnes (each)
  • Mirror diameter: 10.0 metre (each)
  • Special feature: Each mirror has 36 hexagonal segments

Each mirror segment is kept stable by a system of active optics that adjusts its position, relative to adjacent segments, to an accuracy of four nanometers. This twice-per-second adjustment corrects any distortions due to gravity.

Both telescopes are also equipped with adaptive optics, which compensates for the blurring caused by turbulence in the atmosphere. This, combined with the light collecting power of two sizeable mirrors, and some pretty sophisticated instrumentation, means that the twin Keck telescopes can produce some incredibly detailed images of distant objects in the Solar System, that are almost on a par with images from space telescopes. The following are two good examples of what Keck can do:

Saturn's largest moon - Titan
Images showing the two sides of Uranus