From CFHT's Astronomy Picture of the Week
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) is a non-profit organization which operates a world-class 3.6 meter telescope atop Mauna Kea, an extinct Hawaiian volcano rising 4,200 meters above the Pacific ocean. The Mauna Kea volcano is the best ground based astronomical observing site known in the Northern Hemisphere. The CFHT was built on one of the best locations near the summit. The observatories on Mauna Kea benefit from the high altitude of the site which results in a clearer and dryer atmosphere, a darker sky, more clear nights per year and most importantly, sharper images thanks to the low turbulence of the atmosphere at the top of the volcano. CFHT was built in the late 1970s and saw first light in 1979. At the time of the first observations, the 3.6 meter telescope was the sixth largest in the world. Today's largest optical telescopes on Mauna Kea (Keck I & II, Gemini and Subaru) have mirrors sizes in the range of 8 to 10 meters!
The CFHT has undertaken an aggressive development program to equip the telescope with state-of-the-art instruments to remain competitive with the larger telescopes. The latest is the wide-field imaging program. Most large telescopes were designed to collect vast amounts of light but they have a reduce field of view. CFHT was designed for use with large photographic plates covering four times the size of the full moon on the sky. Taking advantage of the rapid evolution of optical electronic detectors (CCD) over the past two decades, CFHT is now able to cover most of its useful field of view with a detector 40 times more sensitive than the photographic plates. The CFH12K camera, a mosaic of twelve individual CCDs detectors, is the largest close-packed array in use in the world today (12,288 x 8,192 pixels). It saw first light on the telescope in January 1999 and has since collected an enormous amount of data.
Image Title: The CFHT Dome at Night
Photograph by J.-C. Cuillandre, CFHT
Text based on accompanying on-line materials.
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Last Modified On: Saturday, December 16, 2000