Before the 1990’s the only planets we knew about were the ones we learned in school. Today, Pluto is no longer an official planet and the number of exoplanets being found orbiting nearby stars is astronomical! The majority of these discoveries have been made by astronomers using the giant telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory. In 2010 Friends of Keck Observatory launched a campaign to fund a new innovation to Keck’s HIRES instrument, enhancing its capability to find other worlds. The campaign was completed in 2011 and select campaign contributors were honored with special naming rights on planets discovered at Keck Observatory.
The year of 2009 marked the fourth year Keck Observatory has presented its signature “Evenings with Astronomers” lecture series to a growing and enthusiastic crowd of Hawaii residents and their guests. Designed to showcase world leading astronomers sharing their passion for unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos, the series has earned a reputation for offering quality intellectual stimulation in a spectacular setting.
Throughout history, private philanthropy has been instrumental in driving advances in the study of astronomy. Four hundred years ago, Galileo Galilei and the world’s first telescope received critical funding and endorsement from Christina and Ferdinand Medici, a wealthy family in Florence, Italy. Keck Observatory’s predecessor in U.S. ground-based astronomy, Mount Palomar’s Hale telescope, was financed through the generosity of The Rockefeller Foundation. And the revolutionary twin Keck telescopes were funded almost entirely by the W.M. Keck Foundation.
An important public private partnership has secured $10 million for the design and construction of a major new capability for the Keck I telescope. The National Science Foundation and philanthropists Gordon and Betty Moore have both committed $5 million to complete full funding for an infrared, multi-object spectrograph which will measure phenomena at the farthest reaches of the universe. The spectrograph will be operational by late 2009.