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University of California: Universitywide and Affiliated Institutions


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Kearney Foundation of Soil Science
Keck Observatory, William Myron

Kearney Foundation of Soil Science
In 1951, the Kearney Foundation was established by an endowment made through the UC Board of Regents. The foundation is named for Martin Theodore Kearney, a prominent agricultural leader who endowed his 5400-acre estate to the University of California. His generous gift paved the way for the establishment of the Foundation. source

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Keck Observatory, William Myron
The W. M. Keck Observatory houses the two largest infrared/optical telescopes in the world. William Myron Keck was the founder of the Superior Oil Company. In 1954, he established the W. M. Keck Foundation, which later provided $140 million for the construction of the observatory telescopes.

The construction of the two telescopes, Keck I and II, were completed in May 1993 and October 1996 respectively on the 13,800-foot peak of the dormant Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's largest island. The site was selected for its height above clouds and the haze produced by Earth's atmosphere, its distance from any nearby pollution, its thermal stability, and the lack of surrounding mountain ranges, which could disturb the atmosphere or kick dust into the air.

One of the chief problems in building large telescopes has to do with craft. Mirror telescopes are often used because after a certain size it is impossible to build a lens of sufficient quality. Even then, the mirrors face their own problems: at a certain diameter, not only are the costs of creating a flawless mirror astronomical, but even the tiny movements used to track a star across the sky are enough to warp the mirror. The Keck Telescopes solve this problem with 36 hexagonal mirrors formed into the shape of a giant 394-inch mirror, with computer adjustments of each segment twice a second to an accuracy of 4 nanometers.

The Keck Telescopes are commissioned for a variety of tasks, including locating gamma-ray bursts (signs of the most energetic cosmological phenomenon) at vast distances, and observing supernovas to ascertain the acceleration of universal expansion. In November 1999, astronomers Geoff Marcy, Paul Butler, Steve Vogt, and collaborator Greg Henry discovered the first extra-solar planet, by measuring tiny shifts in the luminance (and thus position) of a star called HD 209458. This planet, a Jupiter-scale gas giant, orbited in a period of days instead of years, which dramatically reshaped the way we think about star system formation and structure. source

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