Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea Observatory

The Observatories at Mauna Kea, (MKO), are an independent collection of astronomical research facilities located on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i, USA. The facilities are located in a 500-acre special land use zone known as the "Astronomy Precinct," which is located in the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. The Astronomy Precinct was established in 1967. The University of Hawai'i manages the site and leases land to several multi-national facilities which have invested more than $2 billion dollars in science and technology. The Astronomy Precinct is located on land protected by the Historical Preservation Act for its significance to Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian creation chant tells the story of Mauna Kea as progenitor of the Hawaiian people. The altitude and isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes Mauna Kea one of the best locations on earth for ground-based astronomy. It is an ideal location for submillimeter, infrared and optical observations. The seeing statistics show that Mauna Kea is the best site in terms of optical and infrared image quality -- for example the CFHT site has a median seeing of 0.43 arcseconds.

The accommodation for research astronomers is located below the summit at 9300 feet (2835 meters) above sea level, and a visitor information station is located at 9200 feet (2775 meters). The summit of Mauna Kea is so high that scientists and other visitors are advised to stay at the lower level for 30 minutes to acclimate to atmospheric conditions before reaching the summit.


Telescopes found at the summit of Mauna Kea are funded by government agencies of various nations. The University of Hawai'i itself directly administers two telescopes. In total there are 12 telescopes at or around the summit of Mauna Kea. It is also one of the proposed sites of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

2006 Hawaii earthquake

A number of the telescopes sustained minor damage during the 15 October 2006 Hawaii earthquake and aftershocks. Both CFHT and W. M. Keck Observatory were operational and back online as of 19 October

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