University Lowbrow Astronomers

A Visit to Mauna Kea.

by Arthur Suits
Printed in Reflections: October, 2008.

Last December, my work took me to Hawaii (you gotta do what you gotta do), and I decided to take the opportunity to see all the glass on top of the Mountain on the Big Island. Fortunately, a colleague was able to connect me with Prof. Alan Tokunga, who is Director of the NASA/UH Infrared Telescope Facility, a 3.0-m telescope and one of the first built on the summit of Mauna Kea. Prof. Tokunaga kindly arranged for me to receive a guided tour, and in what follows you may share in that experience.

Road Sign

On reaching the summit (13,796 feet), a somewhat arduous drive only permitted for 4WD vehicles, you will see a remarkable sign with some familiar names. Note they seem to have strange shotguns there.

Keck and Subaru

A view looking down on Keck and Subaru. Don’t bother visiting Keck, you are only admitted to the lobby, where you can see nothing and can only press a button to hear the same tape that is played on their web site.

The IRTF and 3 meter telescope

The IRTF and the 3.0 m telescope. Here we have a view from below up toward the secondary.

Detector for the telescope

The large blue box is a detector in use. These can be swapped out readily as visitors come with their own instruments.

Lars Bergknut

The altitude drive gear and my guide, Lars Bergknut, Observatory Foreman.

Telescope Control Panel

Telescope control panel. Hasn’t changed in 30 years, but then, it hasn’t needed to.

Visitor Center

Back down to the visitor center at dusk. There are a number of scopes available for public viewing at 9000 feet including a number of big SCT’s and an AP refractor. You can freely commandeer these. Nice views, but there are cars coming and going so don’t expect too much.

Volcano Park

No trip to the Big Island is complete without a visit to the Volcano Park. Things were hot that day.

Photo Credits


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This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
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