University Lowbrow Astronomers

The University Lowbrow Astronomers Photo Album

Mauna Kea (Part 2)
by Dr. Mark Vincent
(June 2003)

This page shows photographs from Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is located in Hawaii, and contains a number of world class telescopes. They include the two Keck telescopes, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), the Subaru telescope and the Gemini telescope (among others).

IRTF Observing Run (forth trip to Hawaii and hopefully still counting...)

Images available at http://atmos.NMSU.Edu/pub/mvincent/Hawaii2003/

I recently had the good fortune to observe for 3 full nights at NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF). This to further calibrate the Galileo Support Monitoring Program data that I have been archiving at New Mexico State University. The data is composed of near-infrared images of Jupiter and some reference stars to support the Galileo mission. Glenn Orton of JPL has been observing on-and-off from 1995-2002. Now, Nancy Chanover and I would like to wrap up the data with some calibration data. This opportunity came when we were granted the full nights of May 3-6.

Nancy stayed in Las Cruces to test out remote observing. I wasn’t about to give up the opportunity to observe on-site. So, off to Hawaii (for the forth time, all on business, that’s if you’re counting...)

I have always had the desire to see the view from the top of on of the observatory domes. I mentioned my desire to the Paul and Dave, the IRTF telescope operators. They did not have any problem with it - just ask the day crew. On 5 May, I did just that. Lars and the day crew (Lars is standing) were quick to hand me a hard hat and safety belt. Up I went.

Day Crew

You can see the spectacular view! And it is SPECTACULAR! Once up there, I needed to prove that it was indeed me that was taking the images. You know, it’s hard to get a good self-portrait from arm’s length. After a very fast 25 minutes, I felt it was time to go back down. To get down, about all that one needs to remember is to racket down the safety harness, and DON’T let gravity help TOO much (you may need to scroll to the right to see all of the panorama).

Dome Panorama

Me on Dome

Once back to roof level, it was surprising to see a SNOWBLOWER! Well, Mauna Kea can get several feet of snow at the summit. There’s been snow all the way down to Saddleback Road at the 6,000 ft level. Although, it must have been a while since the last snow, the blower’s tires were flat and weather checked...


One of the many delights at Mauna Kea is to watch the sunset, sunrise and the mountain shadow. From IRTF, the sun sets next to Keck, and your long shadow is cast towards IRTF. Unfortunately, the ridge where CFHT through to UKIRT reside blocks one’s view of the sunset mountain shadow. Fortunately, the sunrise mountain shadow is awesome! The sight is a pleasant wake-me-up to see after a long night of observing.

Sunset at Keck

My Shadow

Me at Sunrise

Shadow at Keck


Oh, how did the observing run go? Well, I’ll let you guess by image how well the first half of our first night went. It was the usual first night’s “what are we doing?” By the end of the first night, Paul Sears was a lot happier after seeing the Mars images (and maybe this being his last night before vacation helped;-) As for our second night, Nancy and I were in the groove, and so were the clouds, hence Dave Griep was laid back, REAL laid back - (he just got back from vacation). The third night was even cloudier. As for our setup, Nancy was on the remote video link from her New Mexico State University office. I was at the computers to the right of the remote video (and I didn’t forget the Lowbrows), with the telescope operator is to the left. The preliminary data reduction shows we have some good results. Images and movies of Jupiter and Mars can be seen at

Paul #1

Dave #1

Dave #2

Nancy at Remote

Me at IRTF

More Mauna Kea Photo Album Pages

Related Pages

Photo Credits


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