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In 1964, an extensive program was undertaken to evaluate Mauna Kea
as a site for astronomy. The results suggested that the air was exceptionally
stable, and that Mauna Kea was among the best sites in the world
for astronomy. The University of Hawaii 2.2-meter (88-inch) telescope
was the first large telescope constructed on Mauna Kea. It commenced
operation in 1970.
The early results from the UH 2.2-meter telescope demonstrated to
the world how good Mauna Kea is for astronomy. The smooth shape of
the mountain, and isolated location of Hawaii, means that the air
flows very smoothly over the mountain. Degradation of images from
atmospheric tubulence is low. The high altitude places the summit
above much of the Earth's water vapor.
The excellent conditions atop Mauna Kea have enabled the University
of Hawaii 2.2-meter telescope to become one of the most productive
telescopes of its size in the world.
The most important discovery made with the University of Hawaii
2.2-meter telescope is the existence of the Kuiper Belt in the outer
part of the Solar System. Prior to 1990, the only known object (other
than comets) beyond the orbit of Neptune was Pluto.
For more information visit the University of Hawaii Telescope website.
Courtesy of Simon Fraser / Science Photo Library