1,000+ Experience Cosmos at Keck Open House
Keck Observatory welcomed the community to a free, family-friendly Open House at its Waimea headquarters on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
This is a special event that happens once every three to five years—one that offers the public a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look inside W. M. Keck Observatory.
Employees transformed nearly an acre of the campus into a science festival filled with hands-on educational activities, designed to ensure a memorable experience for everyone, from keiki to kupuna.
“This is our signature outreach event, and we always look forward to seeing friends and families walk through our doors, captivated by curiosity,” said Keck Observatory Director Hilton Lewis. “The revolutionary science that comes from Keck would not be possible without the support from our community. We believe in giving back by sharing our exciting discoveries. Our hope is that people will come away with the same love for astronomy that inspires us each and every time we peer into the universe.”
The event, themed “Keck Observatory: Your Portal to the Universe,” drew more than 1,000 attendees.
The last time Keck Observatory hosted an Open House was in 2013. Some of the most
popular activities were featured again this year, including:
- sub-zero nitrogen ice cream
- solder-your-own flasher pins
- infrared photo booth
- 3D astronomy movie
New to Keck Observatory’s Open House was “Ask an Astronomer” with special guests Dr. Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) at Caltech and Dr. Raja GuhaThakurta of UC Santa Cruz. Both wore wizard hats so the community could easily spot them and ask any astronomical questions they had.
Also, for the very first time at Open House, the Keck Observatory Optics team displayed one of the telescope’s innovative mirror segments and showed how it is engineered to work with 35 neighboring mirrors with nanometer precision. Together, the segments give the twin telescopes the power of a single 10-meter diameter mirror—the largest on Earth.
“It’s exciting to see people’s eyes light up, especially the kids, when we show them the game-changing technologies and ground-breaking research we have right here in Hawai‘i,” said Keck Observatory Outreach Coordinator Shelly Pelfrey. “My colleagues, including astronomers, engineers, and technicians, see this as an opportunity to educate and inspire the next generation, to imagine themselves working here at Keck or other observatories, right here in Hawai‘i.”
One such success story is that of Brialyn Onodera of Hilo, one of the guest speakers at the Open House “Keck Theater.” The Kamehameha Schools grad worked as a summer intern at Keck Observatory in 2015 through the Akamai Workforce Initiative and again in 2016 at the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) on Maui. Just this past September, after graduating from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, DKIST hired Onodera as a full-time engineer.
“People think there aren’t too many astronomy opportunities in Hawai‘i but there are,” Onodera said. “You just have to network and know where to look for them. Growing up on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, I was always exposed to the telescopes. I always thought it’d be cool to work for one of the observatories but I didn’t think it was realistic to get a job right after college. But then I landed this great opportunity to work for DKIST and help build the largest solar telescope in the world—it’s amazing!”
Along with Onodera, there were many other young bright minds who attended Keck Observatory’s Open House. The Boy Scouts of America’s local Cub Scouts Pack 47, high school students from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy, Honoka‘a High School, Pāhoa High School and Parker School, as well as college students from University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Astronomy Department and UH Hilo’s Astrophysics Club, volunteered to lend a hand at the event.
W. M. Keck Observatory is among the world’s largest, most versatile, and scientifically impactful astronomical facilities. Located atop Maunakea on Hawai‘i Island, home of one of the best astronomical observation sites on Earth, Keck Observatory’s revolutionary twin, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometers, and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.
The Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.
PHOTO CAPTION DETAILS
Parker School Volunteers: High School student volunteers from Parker School in Waimea were among the 49 students who assisted with the event. Students from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy, Honoka‘a High School, Pahoa High School, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Astronomy Department, UH Hilo’s Astrophysics Club as well as the Boy Scouts of America’s local Cub Scout Pack 47 also volunteered. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory
Nitrogen Ice Cream: Sub-zero ice Cream was the tasty highlight of the liquid nitrogen demonstration featuring fun experiments, such as a banana that can hammer nails, exploding flowers, and flying Kleenex. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory
Mirror Segment: The Keck Observatory Optics team, for the very first time at Open House, displayed one of the telescope’s signature segmented mirrors. The team showed how a segment is engineered to work with 35 other mirrors to act as a single 10-meter diameter mirror, giving the telescopes unprecedented power to gather light from the most distant reaches of the cosmos. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory
Keck Key Ring (4 photos): Attendees had an opportunity to use a hydraulic press to make a brass hexagon souvenir key ring embossed with 36 segments – a replica of the primary mirror on the Keck I and Keck II telescopes. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory. PC close up: Ethan Tweedie Photography
Infrared Photo Booth (2 photos): People had a chance to see how much they radiate by taking a picture with an infrared camera, while learning how the Keck Observatory telescopes use infrared to “see” the universe. PC: /W.M. Keck Observatory
Hover board (2 photos): Kids and kids at heart took a ride on a homemade hover board using materials that can be found at any local hardware store. The engineering behind the hover board is similar to the conceptual design of the hydrostatic bearings used to move the 300 ton Keck Observatory telescopes. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory
Flasher Pin (2 photos): One of the most popular activities at Open House was a workshop where people learned how to solder their very own Keck Observatory flasher pin to take home. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory
Brialyn Onodera: Onodera was one of the four guest speakers featured at the “Keck Theater.” The Kamehameha Schools grad from Hilo talked about her journey as a local girl who landed a mechanical engineer job at the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui immediately after graduating from the University of Hawaii. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory
Ask an Astronomer: (L–R) NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExSCI) Executive Director Charles Beichman, Keck Observatory Instrument Program Manager Marc Kassis, UC Santa Cruz astronomer Raja GuhaThakurta, and Keck Observatory Chief Development Officer Ed Harris. Dr. Beichman and Dr. GuhaThakurta are visiting astronomers who wore wizard hats so the community could easily spot them and ask them any astronomical questions they had. PC: W.M. Keck Observatory