The optical/infrared facilities, top ridge from left: Subaru (8 m), Keck I and II (2 x 10 m),
IRTF (3 m), CFHT (3.6 m), Gemini North (8 m), UH (2.2 m), UKIRT (4 m) & UH (0.6 m).
Sub-millimetric wavelenghts antennas, front from left: SMA (8 x 6 m), JCMT (15 m), CSO (10 m).
Slightly below the summit ridges stands a VLBA radio telescope (25 m).
The Mauna Kea volcano, located on the Big Island in Hawaii, is the best ground-based
astronomical observing site in the northern hemisphere. The observatories on Mauna
Kea benefit from the high altitude (14,000 feet, or 4,200 meters), which allows for a
clearer and dryer atmosphere, a darker sky, more clear nights per year and, most importantly,
sharper images thanks to low atmospheric turbulence at the top of the mountain.
The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii provides a service
organization called Mauna Kea Observatories Support
Services (MKSS), which helps coordinate the activities of organizations
forming the Mauna Kea observatories.
The MKSS also manages the
Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, located approximately halfway up the mountain
(900 feet, or 2800 meters, elevation). The station is easily accessible by a paved road, with
information on the observatories, Hawaiian culture, natural history and
safety related issues. A free stargazing program is offered every night of the year.
The various facilities forming the Mauna Kea observatories :