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The Twin Keck Telescopes

The Twin Keck Telescopes

Situated upon the dormant volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the twin Keck Telescopes are the largest reflecting telescopes in the world. The telescopes each have a primary mirror 10 meters in diameter and composed of 36 hexagonal segments that work in complete coordination to form a single piece of reflective glass. The telescopes were made possible by over $140 million funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation. These telescopes are reflection telescopes weighing about 270 tons a piece and are encased in massive domes. Each day, the dome must be chilled by massive air conditioners to prevent warping of the infrastructure due to temperature fluctuations. The telescopes in the domes are kept at below freezing temperatures and are used in shifts of 1-4 nights. Scientists use the Keck Telescopes to seek answers to questions such as:

How did the universe evolve since creation to its present state?

How, and when, did galaxies form?

What is the rate of star formation in galaxies far away and far back in time?

How much – and why – does the expansion rate of the universe vary from epoch to epoch in its history?

Did the Universe really undergo a sudden and dramatic acceleration in expansion several billion years ago? How do solar systems form?

How many planets orbit nearby stars?

Where is the missing mass of the Universe?

What is the ultimate fate of the Universe?

In the future, scientists seek to construct the largest interferometer in history using the twin Keck Telescopes as the centerpiece. Using light from the two telescopes and surrounding outrigger telescopes soon to be constructed, scientists will be able to view planets the size of Jupiter from nearby stars.

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