May 3, 1996 Contacts: Caltech--Jay Aller (818) 395-3631; firstname.lastname@example.org Keck Observ.--Andy Perala (808) 885-7887; email@example.com UC Santa Cruz--Robert Irion (408) 459-2495; firstname.lastname@example.org
DEDICATION OF KECK II TELESCOPE IN HAWAII SET FOR MAY 8
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
** Note to broadcast editors: The dedication will be broadcast via satellite; see details at end.
PASADENA, CA--Astronomers and leading administrators from the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the University of Hawaii will dedicate the ten-meter Keck II Telescope in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Hawaiian time (2 p.m. PDT) on Wednesday, May 8. Keck II and its five-year-old twin, Keck I, are the world's largest optical telescopes.
Edward Stone, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and chair of the board of directors of the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), which owns and operates the telescopes, will lead the ceremony inside the Keck II dome on the summit of Mauna Kea, a 13,796-foot dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Following a traditional dedication chant by Hawaiian elder Kepa Maly, the audience will hear remarks from University of Hawaii President Kenneth Mortimer, Caltech President Thomas Everhart, UC President Richard Atkinson, NASA chief scientist France Cordova, and Keck Foundation chairman and president Robert Day.
Clair Bergener, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, and Gordon Moore, chairman of Caltech's Board of Trustees, will then make a joint presentation to Howard Keck, who served as the W. M. Keck Foundation's chairman and president for more than 30 years. The Keck Foundation has provided more than $150 million toward funding the telescopes.
As a finale, Stone will take the telescope for a spin, demonstrating how the telescope and dome move. Although it weighs nearly 300 tons, the telescope is so precisely balanced that, with the brakes released, a person could move it by pushing with one hand. Keck II is undergoing engineering tests and has taken a few astronomical images; it will begin scientific observations in October.
Like its sibling Keck I, Keck II uses a mirror composed of 36 hexagonal pieces of glass, individually polished and assembled to form a perfectly parabolic reflecting surface with an effective diameter of 10 meters, or nearly 33 feet. This segmented mirror is much thinner, and thus lighter in weight, than a solid mirror could be, which is the key to building such a large instrument.
The principal designer and project scientist for both telescopes, astronomer Jerry Nelson of UC Santa Cruz, will attend the ceremony and will speak at a formal dinner the following evening. Nelson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences on April 30 in recognition of his innovative accomplishments at the W. M. Keck Observatory.
Joseph Miller, director of the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory, UCSC, also will speak at the dinner. "This is an unprecedented era for optical astronomy," Miller says. "The answers to so many questions are now within reach--literally all of the questions astronomers have always wanted to ask, but have never had the ability to answer, until the Keck Telescopes came along." Some of the most striking challenges on the agenda for the next several years, Miller says, are searching for planetary disks around other stars, examining the earliest stages of galaxy formation, and studying the large-scale distribution of matter in the universe.
In addition to doubling the amount of observing time available at the observatory, Keck II will let astronomers use a wider array of observing instruments. Scientists have designed and are building three specialized spectrographs--instruments for recording an object's spectrum--for use on Keck II that will make possible an observational program with great flexibility and range.
The Near-Infrared Spectrograph, being built at UCLA, will record spectra from faint objects at wavelengths just slightly longer than visible to the human eye. DEIMOS, a powerful multiobject spectrograph under construction at UCSC, will collect spectra from up to 100 objects simultaneously. And the Echelle Spectrograph and Imager, also being built at UCSC, will take spectra over a broad range of wavelengths and will allow users to take photographic images as well. These, together with the instruments of Keck I, are arguably the finest astronomical instruments in the world.
Keck II also will have an adaptive optics facility to compensate for slight distortions caused by atmospheric turbulence. People see distorted starlight as twinkling, but for a telescope making a long exposure, turbulence makes the star look slightly blurry. The adaptive optics system will detect these distortions and make 100 tiny adjustments per second at the surface of a special mirror to maintain the sharpest possible image.
In the long term, Keck I and II have the potential to work together as an interferometer--a system in which light from one telescope combines and interferes with light from the other. Scientists can extract extremely high-resolution images from this interference. Because the telescopes are some 85 meters (nearly 280 feet) apart, they would have a resolution equivalent to a telescope with a mirror 85 meters in diameter.
SATELLITE BROADCAST--Feed Date: Wednesday, May 8, 1996 Feed Time: 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Hawaiian Time (1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. PDT) Coordinates: Satellite Galaxy K4, Transponder 11, Channel 51; Downlink frequency 11915 MHz V
IMAGES AVAILABLE--Three of the first space images taken with the Keck II Telescope are available from Andy Perala at the Keck Observatory; through Reuters, Agence Presse France, and UPI; and, for AP Photo Members only, through Photostream. Captioned photos of the twin Keck Telescopes are available from the above sources, and from Jay Aller at Caltech.