Four Lasers Aim for the Galactic Center

I am truly jealous! My friend Dan Birchall got the photo I had hoped to get… All four Mauna Kea lasers in operation at the same moment. Better yet, all four lasers were on the same target, the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The result is a great photo of four yellew beams converging to the same spot in the sky.

Four Lasers on the Galactic Center
Four lasers from Keck, Gemini and Subaru probing the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, photo by Dan Birchall
I had attempted to get a four laser shot last year. The one night all four were scheduled I was ready, on the summit with the needed gear for a photographic session. Three of the four lasers were operating, but Gemini had suffered problems and never propagated their laser. I have managed a few very nice three laser images, including one from last summer with three of the four aimed at the galactic center.

The four beams come from our two Keck telescopes, plus one from Gemini and one from Subaru. the lasers are used to create reference beacons for the adaptive optics systems used on these large telescopes. I will, with a little possessive pride, point out that the Keck lasers are much more powerful than the others.

The scheduling of all four lasers at once is a rare occurrence. All four lasers on the same target? Even more luck was involved! It helps that Dan is a telescope operator and spends far more dark time on the summit than most of us. He took advantage of the situation correctly… Grabbing the camera and shooting.

Below is more footage from Dan, a little time lapse of the telescopes working…

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.