More than $3.7 million was donated by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation, and The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation in order to make improvements to the Keck II Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (LGS AO) system. The rest of the funds were made up of individual gifts from the Friends of the Keck Observatory.
Director of the W.M. Keck Observatory Taft Armandroff said, "This is the first time private philanthropy will fund an instrument project for us in its entirety. They clearly see the value putting their resources into the Keck Observatory, and for that, we are delighted."
The Director of Advancement for the Observatory Debbie Goodwin added, "The generous donations from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation and The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation come as we are poised to celebrate the Observatory’s twentieth Anniversary this month. Hundreds of Keck’s supporters will be traveling to the Big Island from around the world to participate in Keck Week 2013. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to publicly thank representatives from these foundations and provide everyone with a look at what exciting science lies ahead with this new capability."
The observatory is a private nonprofit organization that has a partnership with the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA. They operate the two biggest telescopes in the world, and have achieved many advancements in the field of adaptive optics (AO), which currently gives astronomers images three to four times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2004, Keck commissioned the first large Laser Guide Star (LGS) AO system on Keck II. It is responsible for 70% of refereed-science papers using laser AO.
The W.M. Keck Foundation was founded in 1954; centered in Los Angeles, it helps provide grants in many scientific areas of research. (Read Keck director of programs, Maria Pellegrini's IP profile).
"In its Science and Engineering Research Program, the W.M. Keck Foundation has long focused on supporting cutting-edge research and the development of new technologies that may lead to breakthrough achievements in a particular field," foundation chariman Robert Day said. "The Keck Foundation is pleased to make this award to the Keck Observatory in recognition of its outstanding work in the field of astronomy."
The Program Director for Science at the Moore Foundation, Cyndi Atherton, also echoed the organization's pride at being a part of furthering astronomy discoveries. "We’re thrilled to support the Keck II Laser Guide Adaptive Optics, because we believe in the inherent value of science and importance of basic research," she said. "Upgrading the Keck II instruments will help us answer—and even think of new ways to ask—frustrating and significant questions about our universe and the place we occupy within it."
Bob Parsons, founder of the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, said, "Since time began, humans have started into the night sky wondering what is out there. The Keck Observatory is a world leader in its field and this important upgrade will enable them to continue answering these questions for generations to come."