Press Release

Remote Observation Center for Keck Observatory Opens in Maryland

By SpaceRef Editor
February 2, 2017
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To the delight of local and regional astronomers, Universities Space Research Association (USRA) today announced the opening of the USRA Remote Observation Center at its headquarters location in Columbia, Maryland. Astronomers in the Baltimore-Washington area can now study distant galaxies through a facility located close to their homes. To probe the universe they no longer have to travel to Hawaii to use the powerful telescopes there.

The new facility at USRA in Columbia, Maryland, links to the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of the Maunakea volcano in Hawaii. The twin 10-meter Keck reflectors are among the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes, weighing 300 tons and pointing with nanometer precision to study everything from distant galaxies to planets in our solar system. The Keck Observatory is partially funded by NASA to further its mission in planetary exploration and astronomy.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Isaacson, President and CEO, USRA, “The operation of the Remote Observation Center at USRA opens a new collaboration between USRA and the Keck Observatory that will serve the astronomical community and further the USRA mission.”

USRA’s Remote Observation Center is one of only two on the East Coast; the other is at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. “Access to the Keck telescopes from the Baltimore-DC area will greatly increase the flexibility of usage of the facilities and save considerable travel expense,” said Dr. Nicholas White, Senior Vice President, Science, USRA. “We are very pleased to provide this service to the entire Keck user community.”

The USRA Remote Observation Center is funded solely by USRA, offering this capability to the regional astronomy community. Dr. Anne Kinney, Chief Scientist at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, said, “We are extremely pleased to see USRA offer remote access to the Keck Observatory and its telescopes that host a suite of eight state-of-the-art observing instruments to collect and analyze astronomical data. A ninth instrument will be available within a few months.”

More information on the Remote Observation Center at USRA Headquarters:

Formed in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is an independent non-profit organization that offers an avenue for government and industry to engage the expertise of the academic community with USRA’s technical leadership, innovative R&D, operational excellence, management of premier facilities, and education programs to advance space- and aeronautics-related sciences and exploration. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations.

SpaceRef staff editor.