Thars Gold in Dem Dar Hills!


Mauna Kea, that is. According to a recent news article in West Hawaii Today (as in yesterday’s), Yale University plans to pay $12 Million for observatory time on KECK‘s telescopes atop the tallest mountain on earth.

That’s right Everest (29,035 ft), is often called the world’s tallest mountain but Mauna Kea (33,465 ft measured from its base), on the Big Island is actually taller by almost three quarters of a mile! Nearly 20,000 ft of Mauna Kea’s height sits below sea level. But why the hefty price tag, you might ask?

Well, you may not realize it but observing time is meted out very sparingly. Various Time Allocation Committees (TACs) review proposals semi-annually and time is awarded based on the scientific merit of each proposal. After all, there are numerous scientists, entities and organizations worldwide that would love the opportunity to view the heavens in arguably the clearest, cleanest sky anywhere in the world, but with only 365 nights a year, it’s competitive. And what if your night turns out to be cloud covered? Well, don’t quote me, but I think it’s tough luck baby. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Yale’s deal though is for 15 nights of observing over 10 years so while a cloudy night would be costly to the bottom line, they’d still get another shot at it and it’s a chance they’ll take just for the opportunity. Access to our mountain they feel, gives them a leg up on other top astronomy programs and Mauna Kea won out over the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona where Yale used to do their celestial explorations. Their loss, our gain!

Aloha, “Mikie”

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