The third largest optical telescope I have ever used: 14″ OTA with Solar filter.

It 4:51 AM PST. This is a snow day in West Seattle.  White stuff litters all the streets and the construction sites nearby.  Schools are out for mid-Winter break until Monday. All quiet on the Western front here, as students remember their own (R.I.P.)



So, as clouds blot the sky over the 6th floor observatory at The “Jim” Whittaker like a giant eraser, I have some time to write about…


The Third Largest Optical TelescopeIMG_2107.jpgA photo of the telescope setup, as I was volunteering at the Visitors’ Centre (~9000 feet / 2770 metre) on Mauna Kea 5-6 years ago, a couple of years before OCT2014 and the most recent Hawai`ian ​protests over building the thirty metre telescope on sacred ground.  This was still when a native Hawai`ian astronomer worked on Mauna Kea. It was the last time I ever visited Mauna Kea.

Volunteers were trained in Hilo at the W.M. Keck facility, and then driven to setup telescopes and prepare for 10,000 visitors they may interact with each season.  The Visitors Centre is ~4800 feet below the summit at ~13800 feet / 4200 meters, and on the southerly side facing Mauna Loa, as the Winter shadows show.  It is as high as the vast majority of visitors can drive.  The gift shop is behind me with other volunteers.

The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) are a number of independent astronomical research facilities and large telescope observatories that are located at the summit.  The facilities are located in a 525-acre (212 ha) special land-use zone known as the “Astronomy Precinct“, which is located within the 11228-acre (4544 ha) Mauna Kea Science Reserve. The Astronomy Precinct was established in 1967 and is located on land protected by the Historical Preservation Act for its significance to Hawaiian culture.” – Wikipedia (2018)


Some insight into colonial culture…

`Imiloa – Astronomy and Hawai`i Culture today

Early Hawai`ian Astronomy


and into Hawai`i nei…

How Lanakila Mangauil came to his decision


Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 5.57.38 AMThe second largest optical telescope I ever used (and for my undergraduate thesis on intergalactic gas exchange) was the 16″ Schmidt-Cassegrain undergrad scope in the small dome at LARC-NU.  The largest optical telescope I ever used was the 40″ Schmidt-Cassegrain in the large dome at LARC-NU (early 1970’s).

I will tell you this, when you took the elevator or stairs up and crossed over to the small dome, then decended into the working studios and observing chair, it was the closest I  felt to being Jodie Foster, spacetime traveller, as in the movie Contact .  Thank goodness for bitting spiders in the flight suits, bringing one back instantly, to bloody reality 😉

Wait, I see dark blue sky out the observatory window. Back to work…


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