The Keck CloudCam

It works! We now have a CloudCam at Keck. It is not quite ready for full active service, but it is alive and taking images. I got the network connection running yesterday, after mounting the camera and running the various cables over the last couple weeks. A little time for commissioning and getting the software setup and the camera will be available to everyone.

Keck CloudCam
The housing for the Keck CloudCam ready for the worst in Mauna Kea weather.

Our camera was built by Kanoa over at the Canada France Hawaii Telescope. Kanoa built the first CloudCam that has served CFHT so well. In service for a couple years now, the CFHT CloudCam gives our telescope operators an unparalleled view of the weather. This is critically important as heavy fog, rain or snow can damage the telescope optical coatings.

Post Update… The Keck CloudCam Link!
Video Archive

To secure and protect the enclosure Kanoa built I fabricated a solid mount. A heavy machined plate and an aluminum cover should shield the camera from the worst that Mauna Kea Weather can dish out. The camera electronics warm the box nicely and a heater is installed to warm and deice the window. We shall see how it fares, the summit weather can be amazing.

With the original CloudCam pointing east, over Hilo, our CloudCam points west, a complementary view of the weather approaching the summit from either direction. The imagery will be closely monitored by all of the telescope operators on the summit during marginal weather.

The imagery will be available to the public as well. Expect live images as well as compiled movies of each night. The first CloudCam has quite a following, quite a few people check the camera constantly. This includes quite a few UFO consipracists. If anything odd shows up on the camera the video quickly shows up on YouTube and linked to postings on the UFO sites.

Yes, the focus needs to be adjusted (I expected that), but the scene covers a nice range from the Waikoloa resorts on the left, past Kawaihae, to Waimea on the right.

CloudCam at Keck
A test image from the Keck CloudCam

And after focus adjustment we get much nicer stars…

CloudCam Image
A CloudCam image showing the lights of Waikoloa, Waimea, and a lot of evening inter-island air traffic.

Author: Andrew

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

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