Fall 2006 W. M. Keck Observatory 

Click here for a video clip of Geoff Marcy discussing the likelihood that astronomers will soon discover new worlds that might support life (requires Quicktime player).
Read the full story, "Discovering New Worlds."

We are now in the midst of a "Golden Age" of astronomy, which began roughly 15 years ago with the 1990 launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and crystallized with the completion of the Keck 1 telescope in 1992. The clarity of the images sent home by Hubble, in combination with the quality of the data generated at Keck Observatory, have ushered in a new era of understanding of the universe and driven the field of astronomy to extraordinary new heights. Astronomers working at Keck Observatory are now shedding light on age-old questions: How did the universe begin? Will it go on forever? Are there intelligent beings out there?

On June 15, 2006, near the end of his tenure as the first Director of Keck Observatory, Dr. Fred Chaffee presented the Hawai'i Island community with a parting gift: an overview of the Observatory's most significant contributions to the advancement of human knowledge. Chaffee selected six out of hundreds of contributions as Keck's "legacy" discoveries -- the ones that students might learn about in their astronomy textbooks a few centuries from now:
  • The Outer Solar System
  • Extrasolar Planets
  • The Milky Way's Black Hole
  • Gamma Ray Bursters
  • The Most Distant Objects in the Universe
  • The Accelerating Universe
Read "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!" and learn more about Keck Observatory's legacy discoveries. View a time-lapse video clip of the construction of the Keck 1 telescope. (Requires Quicktime player).

Photo: Dr. Taft Armandroff (right), at work with Peter Wizinowich, Keck Observatory optical systems senior scientist (left), and Rich Matsuda, Keck Observatory electronics senior manager (center). Photo by Rick Peterson.
Dr. Taft Armandroff is a visible presence these days at Keck Observatory Headquarters, as he settles into his new role as Director of the world's most venerated observatory. Armandroff comes to Hawai'i Island from Tucson, Arizona, where he was, until recently, the director of the Gemini Science Center at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and associate director of NOAO. Armandroff knows what his job is: to keep Keck Observatory on the scientific and technical forefront. He is excited about the science that is happening at Keck and eager to be a part of advancing the frontiers of human knowledge.

Read an excerpt of Dr. Armandroff's February 1, 2006 speech at W. M. Keck Observatory Headquarters.

Photo: Each square shows an image from the Hubble Space Telescope of a galaxy that is 10-11 billion light years away, illustrating the appearance of galaxies early in their formation process. MOSFIRE will obtain in a single observation simultaneous spectra of up to 46 of these early galaxies, providing information on their mass, stellar content, and chemical composition. This information will help astronomers to better understand the early phase in the formation of galaxies like the Milky Way. Photo courtesy of NASA/David R. Law/C. Steidel.
The Multi-Object Spectrograph for Infrared Exploration, or MOSFIRE, is three years from completion but already has created quite a buzz in the astronomical community. MOSFIRE will be housed at Keck Observatory, thanks to a $5 million gift from Gordon and Betty Moore and a matching $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. MOSFIRE, when completed and deployed on the Keck I telescope in late 2009, will be the most sensitive near-infrared spectrometer in the world.

MOSFIRE will allow astronomers to obtain the spectra of up to 46 objects simultaneously, whereas previously only one object at a time could be measured in the near-infrared spectrum. Galaxies in the early universe, because of their great distances, can only be studied in the near-infrared spectrum. MOSFIRE will enable astronomers to study galaxies as they existed in the beginning of the universe's history -- more than 12 billion light years ago. It will play a fundamental role in helping us to understand how galaxies formed and evolved. In the nearby universe, MOSFIRE will be used to study the process of star formation by obtaining many high-quality spectra of young stars and brown dwarfs in regions of active star formation in our galaxy. Like other technologies which have been pioneered at Keck Observatory, MOSFIRE promises to revolutionize our understanding of the universe.

View a video of Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, discussing his opinion about the possibility of life in the universe. Excerpt from a television interview with Charlie Rose, used here with permission (requires Quicktime player).

Learn more about MOSFIRE.

Photo: The 2006 Akamai Interns pose at the summit of Mauna Kea, with attitude! Photo by Sarah Anderson.
"I want our students to have choices - to be able to make up their own minds about what fields they enter and what they do with their lives" - Sarah Anderson, Akamai Internship Coordinator and Keck Observatory Electronics Engineering Assistant

In summer 2003, David Le Mignant, an Adaptive Optics Support Astronomer at Keck Observatory, agreed to mentor a summer intern from the Maui Akamai Internship Program. Akamai in Hawaiian means smart or clever. This was the seed that has now blossomed into the Hawai'i Island Akamai Internship Program, an outstanding opportunity for college students to get their feet wet in the science and engineering fields represented at the observatories on Hawai'i Island. From four student interns in summer 2004, to 11 students in summer 2005, to 13 students in July 2006, the program has grown to include collaboration among six observatories and enhanced career development opportunities for students. All of the students attend college in Hawai'i or have roots in Hawai'i (family or extended family). The program is sponsored by the Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, one of eleven Science and Technology Centers currently funded by the National Science Foundation. The CfAO supports the next generation of Adaptive Optics technology and research, research to better understand human vision, and innovative education efforts -- such as the Akamai Internship Program.

"What I like about the CfAO is that they are really interested in what will work here, in Hawai'i," says Akamai Coordinator Sarah Anderson. "This is not a cookie cutter-program, but a true pathway for Hawai'i students to move forward with their educations into the real world." The Akamai internships build professional skills, confidence, and new aspirations in the students who participate. And it invigorates their professional mentors as well: "It's great to have young people around. Their enthusiasm is infectious and it makes us remember why we got involved in this kind of work," says Anderson.

Read more about the work done this summer by the five Keck Observatory Akamai interns.

Photo: Summer Arts student Angela Krasuski admires her work. Photo by Sarah Anderson.
"You could see the light bulbs go on in their heads." - Julia Simmons, Computer Systems Administrator at W. M. Keck Observatory

The Kahilu Theatre's Summer Arts Program is a long-time staple in the Waimea community, providing an affordable arts camp for about 100 six to 16-year olds. Program Director Nancy Candea, inspired by her successful Hoku Project collaboration with Keck Observatory, wanted to give the kids a richer experience this summer. Candea met with Keck Observatory's Director of Advancement, Debbie Goodwin, and Computer Systems Administrator, Julia Simmons (who was also a featured dancer in the Hoku Project Concert). Voila! Summer Arts with an infusion of Summer Science was born. Three planning meetings later, seven Keck staff members were on board to help facilitate three weeks of fun, hands-on science projects at the Theatre. Over 40 kids, ages 6-12, participated in this mini-tour of the solar system, which included creating clay models of the planets, estimating planetary distances from the sun using a toilet paper scale, making and eating liquid nitrogen ice cream, and creating a mural inspired by celestial objects and installing their mural in the hallway of Keck Observatory's Waimea headquarters. Along the way, kids learned the following scientific skills: hypothesizing, observing, noting cause-and-effect relationships, and drawing conclusions. Quite a summer journey for our keiki!

Read "What's Inside the Black Boxes?" to learn more about the Summer Science projects.