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We all know that Pluto’s no longer a planet, but did you know that Hawaii had a big part in that discovery?
The Keck Observatory, on the summit of Mauna Kea, uncovered this astronomic finding several years ago. You may recognize the observatory as the two white “balls” at the top of the Big Island volcano. They’re actually twin telescopes, and although only eight-feet-tall, are considered the largest optical and infrared telescopes in the world.
In addition to the breakthrough Pluto discovery, the observatory revealed the existence of a super-massive black hole. Not quite the “black hole” we blame those mysteriously vanished items on, but the one smack-dab in the center of our galaxy. How very cool to say Hawaii had a role in these findings.
March 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of this Big Island observatory. Astronomers and stargazers will be celebrating for an entire week, talking about telescopes, stars and all things astronomical. Tourists may take part in the weeklong events, too, which include an observatory open house and a live-streamed science meeting featuring astronomers from around the globe.
Otherwise, you can always visit the observatory at another time. There is a visitor’s gallery at the summit and free stargazing programs at the visitor’s center. However, be sure to call ahead about weather and road conditions, as it will most likely be covered in snow during the winter months.
KECK OBSERVATORY • www.keckobservatory.org