Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

December 27, 1997
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Keck: The Largest Optical Telescopes
Credit: P. Stomski (W. M. Keck Observatory), Caltech, U. California

Explanation: In buildings eight stories tall rest mirrors ten meters across that are slowly allowing humanity to map the universe. Alone, each is the world's largest optical telescope: Keck. Together, the twin Keck telescopes have the resolving power of a single telescope 90-meter in diameter, able to discern sources just milliarcseconds apart. Since opening in 1992, the real power of Keck I (left) has been in its enormous light-gathering ability - allowing astronomers to study faint and distant objects in our Galaxy and the universe. Keck II, completed last year, and its twin are located on the dormant volcano Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA. In the distance is Maui's volcano Haleakala. One reason Keck was built was because of the difficulty for astronomers to get funding for a smaller telescope.

Tomorrow's picture: Pluto: The Frozen Planet

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.