Keck Observatory Interferometry
Adding ten plus ten usually equals twenty. At Keck Observatory, ten plus ten gives astronomers 85.
The technique that makes this math possible is called optical interferometry. It is based on the interference of light waves and combines the power of the Observatory’s twin, ten-meter telescopes to open up new areas of research in extremely high-resolution astronomy.
When the Keck Interferometer is used, light from distant objects enters each telescope and is then sent into the basement of the Observatory, where the light is eventually merged to form a single signal—a uniform, zebra-striped pattern called interference fringes.
Seeing those fringes, whether it’s the first time or the five-hundredth, “always seems like a miracle,” said astronomer Rafael Millan-Gabet, who specializes in research that uses the two Keck telescopes as one extremely large, 85-meter telescope.