Michael A. Stecker


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Astrophotographer Portraits

United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT)

The 3.8 meter United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) is the largest telescope in the world dedicated solely to observations at infrared wavelengths between 1 micron and 30 microns.  Because seeing is better in the infrared than at visible  wavelengths, and because the telescope's optical performance has been enhanced, the image quality is better than that of optical telescopes of similar size. In fact at a wavelength of 2 microns (the K band) the best UKIRT images thus far recorded rival in diameter.  Rapid controlled movements of this secondary nirror helps eliminate image motion due to the atmosphere (seeing fluctuations), windshake of the telescope, or some tracking imperfections.  This telescope along with the JCMT is part of the Joint Astronomy Centre.

When I visited Hawaii a few years ago, I was invited by the kind staff at UKIRT to spend the night with them at an
observing session. Here is their control room. Only three other people were there -- the telescope operator, an English
professor of astronomy and his graduate student. They were doing infrared spectroscopy on a variety of stars that night.