Michael A. Stecker

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Astrophotographer Portraits

Astronomical Sites
All of the following photos (excepted where linked "from") are of astronomical sites I have visited. Some I visited as a tourist, but at a few ( Anglo-Australian Observatory, Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory and Lake Titicaca, Bolivia) I stayed both day and night and photographed the night sky. All photos (except where noted) were taken by me.

Observatories on Mauna Kea, Hawaii

photo from

1. Univ. of Hawaii -- 0.6 meter
2. Univ. of Hawaii -- 2.2 meters
3. NASA Infrared (IRTF) -- 3.0 meters
4. Canada-France-Hawaii -- 3.6 meters
5. United Kingdom Infrared (UKIRT) -- 3.8 meters
6. Gemini North -- 8 meters
7. Subaru (NAOJ) -- 8.2 meters
8. Keck I -- 10 meters
9. Keck II -- 10 meters
10. J. C. Maxwell -- 15 meters (submillimeter WL)
The Mauna Kea Observatories on the big island of Hawaii are located at latitude 20.708 N, longitude 156.25 W and at an altitude of 4,200 meters (13,780 ft) near the summit of Mauna Kea . In the distance you can see the slightly lower mountain called Mauna Loa. The valley between the two mountains is called the Saddle. As of January, 2000 there were nine optical/infrared telescopes.
Please mouse click on the thumbnails for an enlargement

Univ. of Hawaii


Subaru, Keck I&II, NASA IR


Subaru & Keck I


CFH Telescope (from)






UKIRT control room


Gemini North (from)


Subaru Telescope (from)


Keck I Telescope


Keck control room


J.C. Maxwell


The 10.4 meter Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO), 15 meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescpe (JCMT) and submillimeter array (under construction) are locate in "Millimeter Valley" to the left of center of the photo. The Hawaii antenna of the Very Long Baseline Array is located about 2 miles from the summit, and is not shown in this photograph.

Mauna Kea ("White Mountain") is a dormant volcano and the highest point in the Pacific Basin. It is also the tallest (not highest) mountain in the world if measured from its base to summit. It rises 9,750 meters (32,000 ft) from the ocean floor to an altitude of 4,205 meters (13,796 ft) above sea level, which places its summit above 40 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. Mauna Kea is unique as an astronomical observing site. The atmosphere above Mauna Kea is extremely dry - which is important in measuring infrared and submillimeter radiation through the atmosphere. It also has very good weather, so that the proportion of clear nights is among the highest in the world. The exceptional stability (seeing) of the atmosphere at Mauna Kea permits more detailed studies than are possible elsewhere, while its distance from city lights and a strong island-wide lighting ordinance insure an extremely dark sky. A tropical inversion cloud layer about 600 meters (2,000 ft) thick, well below the summit, isolates the upper atmosphere from the lower moist maritime air and ensures that the summit skies are pure, dry, and free from atmospheric pollutants. These conditions provided the impetus for the development of Mauna Kea into the world's premier site for ground-based astronomical observatories. More major telescopes are located on Mauna Kea than on any other single mountain peak, and Mauna Kea is widely recognized as offering better observations for optical, infrared and millimeter/submillimeter measurements than any other developed site.
Photo from: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/images/aerial-tour/northeast.html