David and Nike Speltz capture their reflection in a Keck telescope mirror segment stored in the Observatory’s “Mirror Barn.” Photo by David Speltz.
Excerpted from Cosmic Matters Summer 2007
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” - Carl Sagan
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.
Keck Observatory’s strategic plan outlines an ambitious program of new technology projects. To bring this program to full fruition will require funds beyond the observatory’s existing revenue stream. A total of 66 donors have stepped forward in the past two years to provide support for the observatory’s instrumentation projects and educational programs. These donors include individuals, foundations, and corporations, all of whom have been inspired by Keck’s work at the astronomical frontier.
Since 2005, Keck Observatory’s governing board has committed a portion of its resources to attract private support to help sustain and improve the world’s greatest telescopes. In December 2005, the observatory’s new Office of Advancement welcomed its first major gift for the design and construction of MOSFIRE (http://keckobservatory.org/support/magazine/2006/sept/index.htm#four), an advanced new instrument for the Keck I Telescope.
Keck Observatory’s other major funding priorities are to support upgrades to existing systems and instrumentation and to develop its Next Generation Adaptive Optics system to drive the Keck telescopes to reach their full potential.
“At Keck Observatory we have only built the first generation of adaptive optics systems. The technology and expertise is now available to build systems with much higher performance and new science capabilities. We need someone with the kind of vision that the Keck Foundation demonstrated to invest in the next generation of Keck adaptive optics - in order to create the next generation of breakthrough science.” - Peter Wizinowich, Keck Observatory optical systems manager
The Change Happens Foundation (http://www.changehappens.us) supports the development and implementation of innovative technology and progressive ideas to generate a positive force for change in our world. In 2007 the Foundation granted Keck Observatory $203,992 for modifications to one of the observatory’s most productive instruments, our Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, to expand the capabilities of the instrument by a factor of five and increase the number of objects being studied by approximately 25 percent.
“I visited the Keck Observatory years ago and saw the write-ups about W. M. Keck himself. I modeled Change Happens after his foundation so it is not a stretch to say I am honored to assist wherever we can.” - Douglas Troxel, founder of Serena Software and champion of the Change Happens Foundation
Goodwin is happy to consult with individuals who are considering their philanthropic options, to help them find the best fit for their unique situation. One possibility is a program that Keck’s Office of Advancement rolled out in April. Keck Associates invites individuals to contribute at planetary ($1500), stellar ($3,000), and galactic ($10,000) annual giving levels. Goodwin applauds Carol and Clive Davies, the first couple to enroll in the program. Please review Keck Associates application (http://www.keckobservatory.org/ways/keckoa.pdf) for membership details.
“We are contributors to the Keck Observatory because it is involved in significant scientific research to further human knowledge of the universe and because it is located at the top of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawai‘i where we live. The advances made in recent years, such as the use of adaptive optics, have made the resolution of terrestrial observations orders of magnitude better than before and have added immensely to mankind’s fundamental understanding of the formation of the universe. Keck Observatory has inspired us to learn more about the very interesting subject of astronomy and cosmology. At university years ago I received undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in physics before embarking on a career in the semi-conductor industry. I retired four years ago and the interaction with the Keck Observatory has been intellectually stimulating as well as fun.” - Clive Davies
“When we retired to Hawai‘i, my concern was the potential lack of intellectual pursuits on the island. I have spent most of my working life at NASA, pursuing exploration of our own solar system. So I was delighted to find that the telescopes, and especially Keck, provided monthly lectures to the public, which we immediately started to attend. Thoroughly enjoying these, we followed up by learning more about astronomy and cosmology ourselves: especially via Alex Filippenko’s lectures with the Teaching Company. We stand in awe of the amount of information that can be obtained about our universe and are excited that we are reaching back to the very beginning of time. We now understand the role that the Keck Observatory, with its adaptive optics technology and wonderful staff and researchers, has played. We wish to help in the continuation and expansion of that role.” – Carol Davies
David Speltz spent his career as a turn-around CEO in distressed hospitals, working with staff, boards, and creditors to revitalize these important community assets. David became acquainted with the treasures harbored in the night sky at a young age, as a Boy Scout in the 1950s. With the popularization of the low-cost Dobsonian telescope in the 1980s, the world of astronomy really opened up to him. David now uses scientific cameras to photograph deep sky objects which are invisible to the naked eye, participates in public observing events with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, and donates observing time to local non-profits, including the New Hampshire Seacoast Science Center, for fund-raising events.
“Sometimes we forget the importance of humility and thoughtfulness in the day to day world of work and daily routine. Being outside at night, sometimes in bone-chilling temperatures, seeing objects that are almost beyond our imagination, millions of light years away, reminds us of who we are, and are not. Giving that experience to others is one of my greatest pleasures, and I know most other amateur astronomers share that feeling.
Visiting Keck was one of the high points of the last few years for me. I have observed the southern skies through a telescope in the middle of Botswana with no lights within 200 miles, seen an extraordinary solar eclipse in the Kurdish part of Turkey, and then another in Zambia, and experienced 5-year-olds screaming at delight at seeing Saturn for the first time through my 155mm refractor. My visit to Keck falls into this category of never-to-forget experiences. Keck has the enviable position of being in one of the finest and most accessible locations in the world. Its cutting edge scientific achievements keep those of us who might have been scientists but never were, enthralled and proud of what we as humans can accomplish. It is our pleasure to be, in some small way, a part of the Keck community.” – David Speltz
Keck Observatory humbly acknowledges that every gift, at any level, fuels the observatory’s mission to advance human understanding of our universe.
Submitted June 2007