Exploring New Worlds with Keck Observatory
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 new HIRES guider system was commissioned in early 2012. According to UC Berkeley Astronomer and world renowned Planet Hunter Geoff Marcy, “The new guide camera on the Keck I telescope is a dream come true. When Keck points to our next star with its planets, we now see a rich star-field, three times larger than with the old camera. The pixels are much smaller and the camera is twice as sensitive. This new system also pops up a previously stored digital view of the star-field, to identify the exact planetary system we should point the Keck telescope at. We are studying other planetary systems more efficiently than ever.”