Re: Another HD flat

David Soderblom

This is outside of this group’s realm, I admit, but, as an astronomer, the 200-inch (5-meter) was an amazing instrument that never really realized its potential.  It’s mostly the site, Mount Palomar, which does not have all that great of observing conditions.  This was proved, without doubt, by the Soviet 6-meter project in the Caucasus: it had pitiful performance with its conventional technology.

It wasn’t until the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in the 1990s that there was a major advance, and in two realms:
  • Mauna Kea is the single best place on the earth to put a telescope.  No exceptions.  There are others that are close, but Mauna Kea tops them all.  Bear that in mind when you read current news.  It has to do with minimal water vapor overhead (critical for infrared observations) and so-called “seeing,” or image quality, which, at Mauna Kea is the very best.
  • The Keck telescopes used segmented mirrors, controlled by sensors and computers to make them into a single, phased surface.  That was revolutionary.

How do I know?  I was there fir the first science observations with Keck in November, 1993.  I’ve used it since and have used many more conventional telescopes.  Keck is/was exceptional, and redefined the state of the art.

And yet, the movement of the 200-inch mirror was clearly a major PR success.  It was the Hubble Telescope of its time.

David Soderblom, Astronomer
Space Telescope Science Institute
Baltimore MD USA

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