Observatory in Hawaii.
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WM Keck Observatory


Mirrors larger than 26.2ft are so heavy that gravity distorts them as they move. Keck's breakthrough design overcame that limitation in 1993 by using a series of 36 hexagonal mirror segments mounted and independently adjusted that function as a single piece of glass 32.8ft in diameter. The results were so good, they built Keck II next door in 1996. Visitors are welcome into the gallery, which has brief displays, public restrooms and views inside the Keck I dome.

The addition of Atmospheric Optics, a mirror that flexes 670 times per second to compensate for distortions in the air, combined with new laser technology makes Keck's images more crisp than the space-based Hubble Telescope.

By measuring the expansion of the universe through the speeds of supernovae using Keck, scientists found evidence for dark energy, a discovery that earned them the Nobel Prize in 2011. In 2013, scientists using Keck I discovered the most distant galaxy ever observed, a whopping 13.1 billion light years away.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Maunakea attractions

1. Subaru Telescope

0.12 MILES

When it came online in 1999, Japan's 26.9ft Subaru Telescope was the most expensive observatory ever constructed. The 22-ton mirror is one of the largest…

2. Mauna Kea's Summit Area

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At 13,796ft in the air, you are above 40% of the atmosphere and 90% of its water vapor – apparently perfect conditions for growing the giant mushroom-like…

3. NASA Infrared Telescope Facility

0.16 MILES

Able to utilize multiple sensors, this 3m (9.8ft) infrared telescope has diverse applications, from close-to-home observations – like measuring the ozone…

4. Submillimeter Array

0.27 MILES

These eight 19.7ft radio telescopes work together (via supercomputer) to create image resolutions equal to an antenna 0.3 miles in diameter. The SMA…

6. James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

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You can easily recognize the JCMT by the world's largest sheet of Gore-Tex® which covers the telescope allowing it to operate night and day. Its 49.2ft…

7. Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

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This 3.6m (11.8ft) optical/infrared telescope's first light was 1979, making it the oldest operational telescope on the mountain. It specializes in wide…