Observing facilities

University of California observing facilities

Keck Observatory: From the summit of Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano, astronomers at the W. M. Keck Observatory probe the local and distant Universe with unprecedented power and precision. Their instruments are the twin Keck telescopes—the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes. Each telescope stands eight stories tall, weighs 300 tons and operates with nanometer precision. The telescopes’ primary mirrors are 10 meters in diameter and are each composed of 36 hexagonal segments that work in concert as a single piece of reflective glass.
Lick Observatory: The University of California Observatories (UCO) is a University of California Multicampus Research Unit with headquarters at the Santa Cruz campus. The Lick Observatory provides UC astronomers with continuing access to world-class O/IR facilities and conducts forefront research in astronomy and astrophysics. Through its faculty and facilities, the observatory supports graduate and undergraduate teaching and the training of astronomy PhDs throughout the UC system.

Other observing facilities


The Thirty Meter Telescope. Near the center of Pasadena, California, and at various locations around the world, a team of scientists, engineers, and project specialists is busily planning and designing what eventually will become the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth. When completed, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will enable astronomers to study objects in our own solar system and stars throughout our Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe, near the beginning of time.

SOFIA Airborne Observatory. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a joint U.S. and German project to develop and operate a 2.5 meter infrared airborne telescope in a Boeing 747-SP. SOFIA is designed to make sensitive infrared measurements of a wide range of astronomical objects. It flies between 11.3 km and 13.7 km, where the telescope collects radiation in the wavelength range from 0.3 micrometers to 1.6 millimeters. First science flights began in 2010 and the observatory is expected to operate for over 20 years. UCLA has a significant and diverse role in SOFIA development and operations.
Solar Observatory. The 150-foot solar tower is operated by the Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UCLA with support from The Mount Wilson Institute. Every clear day, a solar observer creates a drawing of sunspots seen on the solar image. [Image of Observing Room] The magnetic intensity of each individual spot (measured to the nearest 100 Gauss) as well as the position of each spot group is noted on each drawing. The database of daily drawings made at the 150-foot tower goes back to 1917 and contains close to 25,000 separate drawings.
UCLA 24-inch Telescope. The UCLA 24" telescope is one of at least two identical telescopes built at Cal Tech in 1964. One telescope was placed on Mt. Wilson, where it is now being used for remote observing. The UCLA 24" is a Cassegrain type all reflective telescope, with a 24" clear aperture f3.5 paraboloid primary and a 6" diameter hyperboloid secondary. The effective focal length is 384.1" (f/16.0). It is currently being used by several graduate students and groups in support of their research projects.